AS the final boiler was taken out of Watchet Paper Mill on Sunday, it heralded the true end of an era for the town.

But the women behind an inspirational community group want to usher in a new era and find a new defining industry for the town.

Jessica Prendergrast from the Onion Collective said the town needs to aim high and reject the notion that its fate is sealed.

“When the Paper Mill closed at the end of 2015, it was devastating for the town,” Mrs Prendergrast said.

“The Mill had made paper here for more than 250 years and in so doing it had defined the history and identity of this place as a gritty, hard-working, manufacturing town, often in contrast to the touristy seaside places along our coastline, or the pretty villages in land,” she added.

Mrs Prendergrast acknowledged that while tourism is vital to the town, she believes it is not enough.

“Watchet should aim high. We should refuse to accept the often, low-paid, low-skilled, seasonal fate that has befallen so many places that have lost their defining industry—whether that was coal-mining, tin-mining, steel production, fishing or papermaking. We may have lost the Paper Mill but we have not yet lost the skills or spirit of endeavour, industry and enterprise that it created in this town. This is an asset to be used, now, before it is too late.”

The Onion Collective is embarking on a new project, funded by The Fore Trust to do just that—to figure out what should be the industry that defines Watchet for the next quarter millennia.

“Our ambition is high. We want to identify it, business plan it, fund it and open it before it is too late. There’s plenty of space on the Mill site for a new industry and hundreds of good jobs with a decent income,” Mrs Prendergrast said.

“We are talking to everyone we can about possibilities—from nuclear procurement to robotics experts. We are exploring what we have—skills, sea, wind, land—and what we don’t—decent roads, a university, innovation labs. We are considering all kinds of industries that might work—tidal power, insulation made from waste paper, kit houses, even insect farming,” she added.

The Onion Collective say they want to conduct research until a new community industry plan can be created, with profits going back into ‘the next generation of community businesses and social enterprises’.

Mrs Prendergrast said the Onion Collective will be holding open workshops to explore ideas in more detail, but want residents with ideas and knowledge to contact them at or on 01984 633496.