WHEN a large fire ripped through part of an old mill - there was fortunately little damage done to the adjoining historic building.

More than 100 years ago, in October 1917, a large fire took place at the historic mills of the Gater family in West End.

The old building was where the family milled grain and, before that, was used for the production of paper.

Mills have existed on the site since the 13th and 14th century and were originally fulling mills. The mill was replaced in the 16th century and switched to a paper mill in 1685. At that time it was owned by a company whose charter was granted by James II.

The company was joined in 1702 by Henry Portal who went on to take over the lease eight years later, founding the Portal paper making business in 1710.

Henry was known for his forward thinking and enterprising sense - planting a considerable acreage of mulberry trees on which to feed his silkworms.

Portal expanded in 1718 by purchasing another mill down the river in Laverstock.

His dedication to making the mill one of the most successful in the country and his continual strive to increase the quality of the product lead to the company clinching a lucrative contract to make the paper used for banknotes. The deal saw the company make banknote paper until 1995.

Gaters Mill however, stopped manufacturing paper in 1865 when it was mostly demolished and rebuilt as a flour mill.

The complex was used during the Second World War as a munitions store and, in May 1989 was designated a conservation area. The buildings have since been redeveloped and refurbished to accommodate offices.

These pictures show show the aftermath of the blaze which took place in 1917. They depict the interior of one of the buildings completely gutted, but fortunately the most historic building - which was right next door - suffered little damage.

Although there was a plentiful supply of water at hand, the firemen were practically powerless on arrival as the flames engulfed the entire building.