Discover more than 300 years of history

Portals’ history instils a real sense of personal ownership in the business. It helps you to understand that you're not transient, you're not just passing through, that there is a place in history for the site and for the products that we make and that there is also a long sustainable future ahead for us too.

Andrew Nash - Managing Director

Bathford site narrative

The Bathford Mill site has a rich history, with records of a mill on the site dating back as far as the Domesday Book (1086).

Records show that paper was first produced on the site in 1809, and focus was mainly on the production of lightweight papers. Previously the factory had produced corn, cloth, leather goods, flour and even the famous Bath Oliver Biscuits.

Over the centuries the mill was managed by a number of different owners before becoming part of the Portals Group in 1972. In 1973 the mill was converted to produce solely cylinder mould security papers, and to this day it continues to be the only dedicated cylinder mould wood pulp security paper mill in the world.

A few highlights from historical records include:

Tales from the mill: The mill whistle

The mill whistle has been part of Bathford Mill history for as long as anyone can remember.

The steam driven whistle sounds four times a day, historically signalling the start of the day at 7.30am,
the start and finish of lunch at 1pm and 2pm, and the end of the day at 5.00pm. The whistle can be heard throughout Bathford village
and is very much a reminder of the link between the mill and the village.

Many villagers over the years have said that the whistle had very much been part of their childhood and brought back memories of their mothers or fathers who worked at the mill and the lunchtime and evening whistle was a signal they were heading home from the mill!

The whistle has also been used to indicate important times and dates in history such as Remembrance Sunday, and the passing of Monarchs – most recently for her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The whistle was also blown as a gesture for a colleague who had passed away and who had previously worked at the mill
and lived in a mill house – it was agreed the whistle would be blown as the hearse left the house to see him on his final journey – a gesture very much appreciated by the family.

Around 10 years ago, the Portals whistle was stopped for about two weeks, following a complaint from a new arrival to the village. It was a decision that was not taken lightly by the mill leadership team at the time, but one that was taken in the interest of ensuring minimal impact from the mill on the village. The stopping of the whistle was not, however, well received by the rest of the village, and within a short time several complaints had been received asking why the whistle had ceased. Soon afterwards, the whistle was re-instated, and it is still blown now, 4 times a day, every day!