The paper making trade had a long standing tradition in County Durham, but it was the Derwent Valley that could lay claim to being the oldest site of manufacture. In July 1761 Cuthbert Smith of Snows Green owned the Mills at Ealands. A few years later they were in the possession of Thomas Johnson. In 1812 John and Hannah Johnson then sold Ealands Sword, Barley and Paper Mills to John Annandale. John had had a great deal of experience of paper manufacture having been involved in Scotland and throughout the North. John had also previously been in business with his brother Alexander at Haughton.
Renaming the area Shotley Grove instead of Ealands, John set about rebuilding the Paper Mill on the original site. The paper was initially basic and much of the manufacture was done by hand. Within a few years with industrial improvements the firm of John Annandale and Son’s soon became a major name in the manufacture of quality paper. Most firms were importing lots of their rags from France however John debunked this trend and began to source rags from our own area. By the 1870’s the quantity of paper being produced meant that they were unable to source the rags needed so the firm began to import esparto grass from Spain devouring almost 50 tons a week in its manufacture.
By the 1890’s the firm was employing some 300 people and producing over 4,000 tons of premium paper a year. At its peak in 1894 the Mill was working both day and night and its quality paper was even supplying Her Majesty’s Stationary Office.
However, with the introduction of the new wood pulping technologies the firm were no longer able to compete and the business slowly ran down, finally closing its doors in 1907. A small hope was held out that someone would buy up the business, but all to no avail. By 1913 the Mills were demolished leaving only a single chimney standing.
The chimney which had been built as part of the expansion of the mill in 1834 stood as a local landmark until it was also demolished in 1951. It had stood for 117 years at a height of 120 foot and comprised 700 tons of stone. The stone was bought up by Mr W Lambert of Shotley Bridge and was used to build a telephone exchange at Blanchland as well as houses in the Derwent Valley.