Report (Permission Visit) Stowford Paper Mill, Ivybridge, Devon, March, 2014

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The quiet one..
28DL Full Member
Feb 25, 2010
Nowhere soon...
Finally, Devon produces something worth looking at! We're a County that is very short of decent sites, with our neighbours Cornwall & Somerset having more than their fair share of decent sites!

It's always nice to put a new site up, and had to be really quick with this one, the de-commisioning crew are gutting the place very, very quickly, ready for residential conversion. But I guess time is money in their line of work.

Visited with DJ Flava, and Jim Jam, with a big thanks to Rob from the demo team for letting us have a mooch round!

A bit of history...

Paper making started at Stowford Mill 226 years ago, in 1787, on the same site as a corn mill, both using water from the River Erme as a source of power. Initially, paper was produced by hand, one sheet at a time from locally collected cotton rags and supplied to local customers.
Half a century later, in 1837, the first paper making machine was installed to meet increasing demand for printing and writing papers.
The arrival of the railway in Ivybridge in 1848 no doubt influenced Victorian entrepreneur John Allen’s decision to purchase the mill the following year. He set about re-building and expanding the mill, and by the mid 1860’s two larger paper machines had been installed. Over 300 people were employed, a significant percentage of the population of Ivybridge at the time.
John Allen’s influence on Ivybridge extended beyond the paper mill, including building the Methodist church, houses for the employees, and the gas works. His descendents sold the mill in 1910, a few years before the First World War, and unfortunately, the business declined until the receiver took over in 1923.
The following year, the fortunes of the mill were transformed when it became part of Portals, a larger papermaking company, which the current owners can trace links to.
The mill flourished again, and as a result of specialising in the production of security and other watermarked papers, it continued to operate long after many other similar mills closed, with several generations of the same family working there.
Paper production peaked both at Stowford Mill and in the UK in 2000, and has been in continued decline since, mainly as a result of changes in communications technology.
During 2013, it was announced that production would be transferred to a larger mill in the Arjowiggins group in Scotland as part of consolidation plans to utilise excess capacity at the site, and as a result, Stowford Mill produced it’s last reel of Paper at the end of 2013.
The site is currently being de-commissioned, and stripped, before redevelopment work can begin.

I had real problems with my camera here, it took a knock a couple of weeks ago, (well fell off my tripod is a bit more accurate!), and has not been performing well since, not as sharp as it was, a lot of the pics I took wouldn't save to the SD card etc... time to send it off for a long overdue MOT!

This is a site I know quite well, having done some work in the factory 10 years ago, long before I got into exploring, and the family and I regularly take walks up the pretty Erme river which runs up the valley to the side of the site.

Some pics... (sorry, bit pic heavy, but there is a lot to see here!)


The very top of the site, and the old corn mill that started it all. along with the still in use, impressive railway viaduct


The Mill had it's own woodworking shop, which produced their own paper reels


Paper Machine 2 (PM2 as its known), this was the end reel, which the finished paper would be coiled on, before being straightened, and guillotined


The remains of PM2, the huge rollers inside would ensure a perfect finish, there being 7 in each machine..


Sadly, we were a bit too late to see PM3, which is now in bits outside....this area had a real 'Pyestock' feel to it!


This beast was known as the 'Hog Alligator Pit'...can only guess why!


Plenty of control panels around too


Labs, sadly empty, but the glass topped light tables were still working! Used for inspecting watermarks.


The older part of the mill, which was built in 1862 had some lovely old features, and like so many mills, the typical cast Iron pillars, arched windows, and wooden floors.....oh, and that lovely old smell!


The roof was locked and out of bounds unfortunately..



The original cast iron water wheel


As much as we would have loved to climb the chimney, no ladder, and no climbing gear meant we were grounded this time..


and to finish, a quick landscape shot from the adjacent river!



Full set on flickr...
Last edited:


Just Reckless.
28DL Full Member
Aug 8, 2010
North Devon
Re: Stowford Paper Mill, Ivybridge, Devon

Very nice, certainly good to see something from Devon.


( . Y . )
Regular User
Aug 25, 2008
Spot on with the photos as usual Collingwood.

Finally, Devon produces something worth looking at!
I'm sure you've been keeping an eye on it but the Leadeflush Shapland works in Barnstaple always looks derelict when I drive past it..


28DL Member
28DL Member
Jun 14, 2012
I worked there in the early 80,s testing the finished paper in the labs, we made paper for bearer bonds and post office giro cheques where security woukd turn up and wait until the paper was made and then take it away including any scrap.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Jul 9, 2014
Hi Collingwood,

Fab report and I see what you mean about me just missing this one, Gutted! :)

Looks a great place and the demo Guy was a bonus!

Love all the history too, thanks for a great, interesting report :)

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