Jack Meades or Half Way House

Jack Meade’s is one of Waterford’s, if not the country’s, most popular pubs/restaurants.  Like all businesses it has had to adapt and diversify to remain viable, and given that it’s over 300 years old, its seen more than a bit of change down the years.
The pub itself says over the door that it was founded in 1705.  It was recorded in November 1710, that one Jenkin Richards leased the inn from William Harrison who lived at the time at Ballycanvan House. Richards was said to lease “the house commonly called or known by the name of “Half way house”

James Guest, (how’s that for a landlords name) and his son John were running the pub in 1721 and the family lived on the premises. The last of the family recorded here were the brothers Robert and James Guest who dropped their lease in the 1770’s. Despite searching high and low, I couldn’t find any other references to lessee’s until the mid nineteenth century. At that stage, in 1857 to be exact, the pub was being run by John Curtain.

It was at this point that plans for a new bridge emerged and there was some concern that the pub would need to be relocated. The bridge was constructed circa 1860 but the pub was left in place. It was apparently built as part of a failed enterprise of running a railway line to Passage East, a plan which included the enterprising Malcomson family. The need for speed in the cross channel ferry service was the momentum behind this. The enterprise was made up of visionary and influential businesses, who realised that a ferry terminal at Passage would take an hour off the normal journey time between the city and Bristol. It was also a viable option to the location of the SW Wexford Railway line between Waterford and Rosslare, which I’ve written about previously,
A map including the Waterford -Passage Railway line
John Curtains daughter, Elizabeth Meade, took over the pub on his death. Her son Thomas Meade was next to inherit passing it on in turn to his son John, commonly called Jack. Jack ran it up to the 1970s at which point it passed to his own daughter Carmel. Carmel and her husband Willie Hartley run it still, although it has grown in size in the intervening period, and their son Liam runs the busy food part of the business.
Much of the history of the pub and site is on display in the old pub
Although it is now more commonly known as Jack Meades, for years the name Half Way House was associated it. When I was growing up the pub could be referred to interchangeably and without confusion as “Jacks”, “Meades” “Mades” or indeed the “Half way house”. The place name of half way house is a common enough one, and designated a stop off point in days of old when carriages, carts, joulters, jarveys and so many other horse driven transports plied the busy road to Passage and Cheekpoint. Until the bridge was built the main road to Passage continued along the Cheekpoint Road to Strongbows Bridge and then diverted up Carriglea.
I’ve written  before about how as a child the lure of the areas was Willie’s agricultural contractor business and all the shiny tractors on show as we passed on the Suir Way Bus service.  Back then the pub was little more than the older building with parking for a few cars.  All that changed however when Carmel and Willie with the help of the ever present Mickey Mac, began to reclaim some of the bog for car parking to accommodate the growth in business.  In my late teens and early twenties it was the only place to be on the weekend and many was the high, and a few lows, I had there.

At this stage it’s the heritage value of the site that draws me back and if and when you call be sure to explore the area for yourself.  Here’s some related pieces found on or close by to whet your appetite;

Thanks to Liam and Carmel Hartley for much of the information I have on the pub in this piece, and for access to take photos of the pub and area.
I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
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Jack Meades Commercial Ice House

A few years back a group of scientists were gathered and asked what was the 20th Century’s greatest invention.  Out of an eventual list of 100, refrigeration topped the bill. You might think the kitchen fridge is a relatively modern development, and I guess you’d be right, but the idea that cold could be used to keep food fresher for longer was identified by our distant forefathers. The Egyptians for example used earthen ware jars of water, left out on cold nights, to cool rooms in the daytime heat. Here’s another example of how incredibly intelligent our fore bearers were
In Europe in the 17th Century, a fashion for the building of residential ice houses developed and we have a great example on Faithlegg estate which we have seen before on the blog. (In fact to understand the rest of this piece I’d ask you to look at the previous blog for a context.)
But there is another Ice house in the area, much bigger, yet more accessible.  Lets call it Jack Meade’s Ice House, though we could as easily call it Ballymaclode Ice House as it resides in that townland.  Its circular in build, approximately 20 ft in diameter on the inside and over 30 feet high.  The wall to the South, which would have taken the most sun was six feet wide in the past, and was a cavity construction.  The roof was thatched and entrance was via the door near the roof, and accessed no doubt from the present garden of the Kenny family home.

I’ve long entertained a notion that the Ice house, as big as it was, must have been built with the coming of the Scotch Weirs in the early 19th Century, which gave rise to the Salmon Wars or the weir wars later in the century. The Barony of Gaultier featured an article about it by Ray McGrath in their latest newsletter. Originating in Scotland, the practice exploded with a new approach to the preservation of salmon, the use of flaked ice.


Inside the building
Previous attempts to use ice was found to be problematic, a fish when placed on a block of ice, fused with it and the flesh of the fish was damaged. The new approach which was brought from China in the late 18th Century, saw the ice being chopped or flaked and then the fish being surrounded by it.  The fish were thus preserved without damage…the Chinese had been doing it for centuries 1.

Remains of the cavity on the south face of the structure
This new technique, coupled with developing rail transport, meant that fresh salmon could now be delivered to the rapidly expanding industrial cities, especially London, where fresh salmon had long been prized, but was hard to get.  The new technologies and the new markets saw a rash of weir building, with little or no regard to the centuries old traditions of traditional nets men and “head weir” men such as had existed since at least the coming of the Cistercians to Waterford harbour.

Old entrance point

As a consequence of the demand for Ice a new trade was developed, apparently initially in America but it eventually spread to Europe, who could naturally depend on the Norwegians for a ready supply of cut blocked ice. This was transported on sail boats to harbours such as Waterford and then carried along on lighters to Ice House locations such as at Jack Meade’s.  Straw or sawdust was used as an insulator between the blocks.  I’ve found little enough evidence of Ice House use in Waterford, but it was stored in basements all across England, and I have no doubt it was likewise stored in the city and New Ross.

accessed from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons
I wonder however, did Jack Meade’s Ice House pre-dated this era?  Looking at the design and the fact that it had a thatched roof, it’s possible that it was an earlier build, and if it was, it most probably served the big houses that were in the area.  At a stones throw I can think of Ballycanvan House, Foxmount, Brook Lodge, Mount Druid and Blenihem.  I’m guessing that just like at Faithlegg, the landowners of the area, chose an ideal location to harvest ice from Ballycanvan Stream when the weather was right and to deposit it into the ice house.  It could then be brought to the homes of the rich to impress guests with chilled white wine or sorbets in the height of summer.  It could also be used to store a large quantity of perishable goods.  Meat and fish etc could be suspended from the roof beams above the ice and be preserved long after they would have turned in normal circumstances.

There is a story of Ice blocks coming up the pill in Lighters, so it was to see this trend emerge, and it’s probably that like an “Ice Box” I have located nearby with the assistance of Pat Murphy, that it did play a part in the Scotch Weir developments. 
That it stands today, and is accessible to view is a testament to the vision of Carmel and Willie Hartley.  They should be thanks by all and sundry for their interest and dedication to our local agrarian heritage.  I for one am eternally grateful.

1 Robertson. I.A. The Tay Salmon Fisheries since the eighteenth century.  Cruithne Press.  1998 Glasgow.

For more information on Icehouses: Buxbaum. T.  Icehouses.  Shire Publications.  2008.  Buckinghamshire.

Ballycanvan House and Townland

About forty years ago I went with Michael Duffin and his mother Catherine to have our hair cut by Mandy over in Woodlands Avenue.  We got the hair cut first and then we went off for a stroll while Catherine received the full attention.  Wandering along the avenue we followed a path down towards the river when we came across an old crumbling building,  I had two memories of it, first its ramshackled nature and second that I stood into cow slurry, that stunk to high heaven when we got back to Mandys and meant that Catherine had to lower the windows on the way home.

The house we had stumbled upon was the original seat of power, if you will pardon the pun of the Powers of Ballycanvan, a family directly related to the Powers of Curraghmore and thus direct descendants of the original Le Poer that landed as part of the Norman conquest.  The original tower house, similar no doubt to Ballymaclode castle directly across Ballycanvan Stream (which flows past Jack Meades pub) was later built on and added to.  The following is a brief historical run of the owners or occupiers at one time or another.

Ballymaclode castle on the city side of Ballycanvan stream

In 1537 there is a list of crimes held against one Thomas Power of Ballycanvan including many extortions of travellers, no doubt using to advantage his location.  In 1598 a stone chimenypiece was built with an inscription carved to Richard Power, 4th baron le Poer and Katherine Barry.  In 1697 a Captain William Harrison was leasing the property and this was continued by his son John Harrison.

It came into the Bolton family when Rev Hugh Bolton (1683-1758) acquired the property as Dean of Waterford.  He was succeed by Cornelius Bolton the Elder (1714-1774) who took over in 1758 and extended his ownership to the Mill Farm in 1765. It was here that Arthur Young, the travel writer and chronicler of industrial and agricultural development, visited when he came to East Waterford. We have also met the Mill Farm recently, and the works of Cornelius too.  A Georgian mansion was added to the castle at this point.

the old mill and Ballycanvan overlooking the Suir (Kings Channel)
Photo courtesy of Liam Hartley

Cornelius Bolton the younger, (1751-1829) sold the house to his younger brother Henry around 1792, no doubt to assist in the ongoing investment at Cheekpoint.  Henry however, leased it not long before he died, in 1805, to Samuel Roberts (1758-1834) son of honest John Roberts who did substantial work to the property.  On Henry’s death ownership went to his daughter Elizabeth, a fragile lady who had a nervous breakdown in 1807 and never recovered.

In 1818 Roberts dropped the lease and Thomas Meagher (1764-1837) took on the property.  The Meaghers remained at the property until 1829.  Subsequently the property was leased to Richard Morris and family until 1836.  The next family found on the property is George Kent (bc1786-1866), who made his money in the bacon trade, and was renting from 1848 to his death.

An early map highlighting the house and grounds

Elizabeth Bolton died in Devon in 1852 and Cornelius Bolton the youngers eldest son Cornelius Henry inherited the property.  This he sold in 1857 and it was apparently bought at that time by Patrick Power of Faithlegg House.

The Kent family seem to have continued to live on in the house for some time afterwards, but at some point in the subsequent decades structural problems were found in the building and it fell into disrepair.  What now remains is a sad reminder of a very busy and illustrious past.

The information contained in this piece comes via Mark Thomas in the following article for Abandoned Ireland; http://www.abandonedireland.com/Ballycanvan.html

Delahunty’s Mill, Halfway House

For some reason, I have had, for as long as I can remember, this idyllic notion of the workings of a watermill. It includes a gushing stream of water, the clanking of gears turning in a fine stone building, the dust escaping from corn sacks as they are spilled into a hopper and the coming and going of horse drawn carts in country lanes.
Delahunty’s Mill
That idyll was fueled by passing Delahunty’s mill at Halfway House. The rushing stream, especially in times of flood. The network of roads thereabouts, leading off towards even smaller country lanes. Fine solid gate posts on the left hand side of the road, marking the mill site as you come under the bridge on the way towards town. All in all it’s location is a classic in terms of mill sites.
“Tailrace” from the mill wheel, note stream on left. 
Today however its a crumbling ruin, but the old mill and the many outbuildings are still in evidence, Gone is the busy coming and goings of carts, farm labourers and workers, replaced now by motorists hurrying along the roads.  The mill is slowly fading back into the earth, being swallowed by trees and ivy, nature reclaiming her wealth.
Nature has every reason to flex her might.  As the mill itself required a legion of men at some point in the past to tame nature and through sheer might and engineering skills to create the mill in the location it’s in.  The stream that flows past the mill, didn’t actually power the mill you see.
Although the mill wheel was driven from the stream, it was actually impounded by a dam about 300 yards upstream in a man made pond on the Brook Lodge estate.  To get the water to the mill, which is located on ground above the natural stream, a “leat” or “headrace” was constructed by embanking stone and clay in a winding channel. Builders preferred to cut into an existing incline which automatically created one boundary, the other constructed out of the clay and stone that was excavated.  The present stream is fed by a spillway of the dam, to release the excess water.

“Brook Lodge” mill with man made pond
and headrace marked in blue
dam on the stream and pond
The much overgrown headrace, easily mistaken as a country path
Once a head of water was built up, it was released into the headrace and it coursed down to the mill and was directed over the wheel to drive the gears and belts that milled the corn.  Wheels which were fed by water from atop (overshot), were much more economical to run, perhaps 3 times more efficient than undershot wheels.  Another particular feature of the mill was that the mill wheel was actually contained within the Mill, not on the side. The water then ebbed away down the tailrace and rejoined the stream close by the bridge.
how the water was guided onto the wheel, walls about 4ft high
the entrance and where the wheel once turned
Unlike Ballycanavan tidal Mill with it’s many negative running features, Delahunty’s mill had a longer spell of life. Some months back I called to Eddie Delahunty in Kilcullen Lower to see if he had any memories of the mill.  I had mistakenly assumed that it was Eddie’s family who had last owned the mill, but was corrected on this. However Eddie did recall as a youngster being at the mill and remembered the clanking of the machinery and the hauling away of bags of milled corn by horse and cart. Eddie was of the opinion that the mill had ceased working in the 1930s but reopened for a short time during the “emergency” or second world war.
Liam Hartley of Jack Meades could tell me that as youngsters he remembered the wheel still in place but in a poor state of repair.  He also reminded me that it was only part of a very industrious location in the past that included the pub, shop, post, blacksmith and the mill.  His understanding was that it was all part of the Ballycanavan estate at one time, another feature of the Bolton legacy.

Although the mill still stands, it is crumbling and in a poor state of repair.  It wont be long I fear before photographs, some written accounts and old maps will be all that we have of much of  our early industrial and engineering past.

Thanks to Eddie Delahunty and Liam Hartley for information in writing this piece.

Watts. M.  Watermills.  2012.  Shire Publications. Oxford.