End of an era as landmark tower and chimney in Keynsham are demolished

The landmark water tower and chimney at the old Keynsham Paper Mill site were demolished in the week before Christmas.

The site at Avon Mill Lane is the headquarters of I J McGill Transport Ltd, which moved in two years ago, although the company’s links there go right back to when Ian McGill launched his business with one vehicle some 40 years ago.

The tower and chimney were removed on 18th December for safety reasons and the noise of the structures crashing down caused some consternation, with many people pondering on social media about what the noise in the night might be.

Adam Pope, McGill’s project manager, explained: “The works had to be carried out between the hours of 11.30pm and 4am due to the location of the structures to the railway. This was stipulated by Network Rail as they had to carry out line closures whilst the demolition occurred, reducing any interruption to rail services.

“We apologise for any disturbances caused whilst these works were carried out; a number of letters were sent to immediate houses and the emergency services were notified of our intentions. We didn’t make a public announcement beforehand as we didn’t want draw attention to the demolition due to safety concerns of any bystanders wanting to watch.”

It is understood that the tower and the original chimney were constructed at the time of the site being built, which was circa 1933.

An old image of Keynsham Paper Mill site looking west

Adam said: “The water tower was used to store water pumped from the River Avon and was used to cool the machinery used at the time. The chimney was part of the boiler house that generated electricity to power the site as a whole.

“The original chimney was demolished and replaced with what was the current one in the early 1980s. Both structures had come to the end of their lifespan some time ago and had to be removed for safety reasons.”

He said the clearance work would now allow the area to be used for the loading of vehicles and will aid greatly in the operation of the business.  The company has also just renewed and relocated the electricity substation which is part the Keynsham ring main situated on the site.

Outlining the history of the company, Adam said: “We were founded in 1979 by Ian McGill who was an owner/driver. Ian used to run his vehicle out of Keynsham Paper Mill, collecting and delivering paper goods around the UK and Europe.  The business has since grown and now employs over 200 people across five depots around the country.”

Having outgrown its yard in Unity Road, the trucking company purchased the old paper mill site in 2017 from D S Smith, eventually moving across to Avon Mill Lane in January 2020. Adam said: “During this time we had to carry out extensive renovations to get the site to where it needed to be to become fully operational.

“We look forward to building a new warehouse during 2022 which will allow us to consolidate our operation on one site and reduce the cross-town movements to current existing sites.”

Meanwhile the company says it doesn’t have that many pictures or much literature from when the site was operating as Keynsham Paper Mill. Adam said: “We would welcome any information or pictures from your readers who know anything about the history of the site.”

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