Weirs Lane paper-roofed houses 1923 just before demolition

Image from The Bodleian Library, MS Top Oxon d.493, fol 59r bottom.

This photograph of paper-roofed cottages on Weirs Lane was taken just before their demolition in 1923. Weirs Mill - on a side-stream of the Thames, close to where Donnington Bridge now crosses the river - was converted in around 1824 from corn milling to paper manufacturing and a photograph of around 1870 suggests that at least two of the buildings on site had paper roofs. This group of three pairs of semi-detached workers' cottages belonged to the mill and they were also roofed with paper (notice how shallow the pitch of the roofs is). Houses with tarred paper roofs were not as rare as you might think: paper-built structures seem to have had a brief period of popularity from c. 1775 to 1840 and the greatest concentration of identified buildings with paper-covered roofs occurs in Oxfordshire, a county known for paper-making (because of the demands of the printing industry).

Some time before 1885 Weirs Mill was bought by John Towle (who already owned nearby New Hinksey Mill) and he converted it to the manufacture of cardboard.

The paper-roofed cottages and the two paper mills can be seen on this extract from the Ordnance Survey map of 1878. John Towle's paper house is the dark shape south of New Hinksey Mill, just above where is says 'BM 202 4'.

Cold Harbour OS 1878 mills

Weirs paper mill on the Weirs mill stream, close to where Donnington Bridge now crosses the river. Left: painting of unknown date, copyright John Burbank, and reproduced with his permission. Right: Weirs Paper Mill by William Crotch (1775–1847), courtesy of Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norfolk Museums Service. There is another painting of the mill here. (Click on image to close)

[Weirs Paper Mill, painting] [Weirs Paper Mill, William Crotch]

Weirs paper mill in around 1870. Image from the Henry Minn collection, Bodleian Library, MS Top Oxon d.493, p58. (Click on image to close)

[Weirs Paper Mill, 1870 photo]