On the 5th May 1914 a major fire started in the rag loft at Stowford Paper Mill. Workers and villagers gathered to watch as the smoke rose high into the air. A full report of the incident appeared in the Western Morning News the following day.
A fire broke out early yesterday morning in the paper mills of John Allen and Sons (Limited) at Ivybridge. The mill buildings, with Stowford Lodge and gardens, formerly the residence of the proprietors, are a well-known feature of the beautiful valley of the Erme at the entrance to Ivybridge from the railway station. The mills have stood there for some generations and have been a main factor in the employment of the people of Ivybridge.
In 1910, the firm was taken over by the Clapperton Syndicate and made into a limited company, with Mr. George Clapperton as managing director and Mr. James Carter Allen as secretary; and the mills have since experienced a fairly good run of trade. So much so that the company have been encouraged to add a new engine house and chimney stack to the already large group of buildings. It is in red brick bearing the date 1914 and it is not yet completed.
Towering above the engine house was the great main building of the works. It was a five storey building with a basement under the western end of it where the ground slopes towards the river. Along its south front run the words “Stowford Paper Mills, 1862”. It was in this building that the fire occurred and the building was completely gutted. Only the brick walls stand and these are seriously cracked and bulging at the top. On the east side the building abuts on the Harford Road and this road had to be barricaded lest the wall should fall on passers-by. Stowford Lodge, which stands close to the mill, is now the Devon School of Gardening for Ladies and the inmates of the house, although it was in no danger, were naturally very much excited by the fire and the invasion of their grounds by fire engines.