One of the industries that grew up in Cheekpoint in conjunction with the Mail Packet station was textiles. Nothing now remains, except some brief mentions of the trade and local lore. It appears that the Cheekpoint venture was part of an initiative in the 1780’s to move textile industries out of large towns like Dublin, which provided hefty subsidies to landlords. The local landlord was Cornelius Bolton, who we have met before. 1
The one most tangible piece of evidence apart from written sources is a local placename. It’s been speculated that the Green in Cheekpoint owes it’s name to a bleaching green. Bleaching was a process of whiting material to remove stains from the textile manufacturing process. During the industrial revolution the process had been cut from months to days but newly spun cloth still needed to be laid out in the sun. The Green seems a modest size compared to some of the greens, such as the photo below. It’s worth speculating that many of the fields around could have been employed in the past, but surely south facing would have been more productive.
|Bleaching green. Accessed from
Julian Walton drawing from Matthew Butler mentions in this excerpt from I was a Day in Waterford “…A report of 1788 states that there were thirty stocking frames in operation, though there were only twenty-two looms in linen and cotton.” (Fewer: p49)
Stocking Frames gives some sense of the type of activity happening in the village. The industrial revolution saw the creation of many mechanical solutions to what had previously been a hand crafted skill. One such invention was the Stocking Frame, which could make socks, albeit of poorer quality, but obviously much quicker and cheaper. The actual invention went back to 1589 and was credited to a man named William Lee. It would eventually give rise to the term Luddites – those who rose up and fought against the machines and the displacement of their work and income.
The machines saw a trade in stocking frame looms emerged, where they were purchased by the wealthy and were then leased out to workers to make the socks. These were then sold on by the wealthy merchant. Looms were installed in the cottages of the poor and with minimum training they could soon be turning out socks for export. In the case of Cheekpoint, it is likely that the product was exported directly to the army, then fighting in the Napoleonic war, which ended in 1815 and which would have seen the market shrink. In November of 1788 such product was sold and exported “…300 dozen plain, ribbed and ribbed and figuered cotton stockings at a profit of 25%… ” In November of 1789 Daniel Malone, possibly the manager of the textile business, reported that the Bleach Green had been robbed of “…39 pairs of cotton stockings, 28 yards of calico, and 24 yards of linen, and offered a reward of £10 for information” In 1792 Malone was advertising for “..six apprentices for his hosiery business” (Fewer: p49)
|Accessed from: http://faculty.humanities.uci.edu/bjbecker/SpinningWeb/lecture15.html|
The mention on cotton or linen looms is also telling. Hand looms have a long tradition and here’s a good example of how the machinery of the time may have operated. But if you have more time, here’s a longer clip showing the entire process from flax harvesting on.
I grew up with rumors of a cotton mill in the village and some have speculated that it was close to the Green. However, the remains of any building of such a size have not been found either around the green or elsewhere in the village. No signs of same on any old maps either. Is it possible that over the years the hand loom operation were mistaken for a cotton mill? Probably.
Anthony Rogers could tell me that his mother remembered as a child the remains of rusting machinery in a field where Tommy and Maura Sullivan now live. These she was told were the remains of the old cotton mill, and that pits used in the soaking of flax and other materials was near the site too. There’s certainly plenty of running water nearby. Maybe there was, or maybe what was seen were some remains of the hand looms or other related apparatus.
The industry must have been impacted by the loss of the mail packet station and the financial pressures which it caused for Cornelius Bolton. We don’t know exactly when the industry closed but Samuel Lewis writing in 1837 noted that that Cheekpoint was “formerly the Waterford post-office packet station, and the seat of a cotton and rope manufactory, which since the removal of the packets to Dunmore have been discontinued.” (Fewer: p49)
Please join us and the Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project on Saturday 22nd August at 5pm at Cheekpoint Quay to explore more of the Mail Packet station and Cheekpoint’s Industrial Age as part of Heritage Week 2015
We will also provide our regular walks, as part of Heritage week, Cheekpoints Maritime Trail will run on Wednesday 26th and the Faithlegg Heritage Tour will run on Sunday 23rd & 30th. Details on our website at www.russiansidetours.com or via the links above from the Heritage Council website for the week.
1. Aalen. F.H.A. et al Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape. 2003. Cork University Press
Fewer T.N. (Ed) I was a day in Waterford. 2001. Ballylough Books. Waterford