The unique but crumbling “Spider Light”

Let us honour if we can, the vertical man
Though we value none, but the horizontal one
W.H.Auden

These lines from Auden often come to mind when someone dies, and particularly when I realise just how much I used to rely on them, or value them.  I’ve mentioned this about my deceased father on more than one occasion. He was renowned for his tall tales and good company. But what many dismissed as yarns I’ve proven several times as based on fact, most recently the story of Press Gangs.

I’m afraid I took my Father for granted when he was alive, how many times have I wished I could chat to him since he died. But if we can feel a loss at human presence is it not also possible to miss a feature of our lives, such as a building too? This came to mind recently when a friend of mine John O’Sullivan made a plea on Facebook concerning, what we locals would know as the “Spider light” at Passage East.  You see the Spider light, which is more officially known as the Passage East Spit Light, is slowly falling asunder and unless some remedial action is taken will crumble away into the harbour currents and fade from our lives altogether.

The “Spider light” from Passage East
the structure up close, via Barony of Gaultier Historical Society
According to the Lighthouse Directory the Spider light dates to 1867 and was one of four built in the country. The man who designed it, and who won a world wide patent for the technology used, was a Dublin born engineer named Alexander Mitchell. His patent was known as the “Mitchell Screw Pile Mooring System” or in modern parlance the “Helical Pile” and has been used in the building of lighthouses, bridges and piers etc. It was specifically for use in strong tidal conditions where shifting sands were a threat to foundations. His technology was said to be inspired by the use of a corkscrew.
Sheer force and sea shanties

The system itself though basic, took a number of weeks to complete.  First a working platform was positioned on the chosen site.  Each pile was then individually screwed into place by a team of men working a capstan winch.  As they worked, they sang sea shanties.  And Mitchell, although completely blind, since the age of 22, was generally in the thick of it.  Once the piles were driven on the corners of the site a central pile was driven to complete it and then the light platform was constructed from there.

Mitchell died in 1868, a year after the Spider light was completed.  I can’t find any mention of his working on it, however he was active up to his death and several of his sons were engaged in the trade, so if not he, then probably his sons overlooked the work at Passage. Unfortunately I could find nothing in a brief search of the newspaper archives. I’m sure some account is there, and certainly the minute book of the Harbour Commissioners would be informative.
Alexander Mitchell 1780 -1868
Next year the Spider light will reach is 150th year of operation.  In that time it has effectively marked the entrance to the inner harbour and ports of Waterford and New Ross.  It has seen a legion of merchant ships, naval vessels, pleasure craft and fishing boats safely upriver.  It has also welcomed many a tall ship.  One of the old “buoy gang” of the harbour told me that he recalled it being refurbished last in the late 60’s, but this blog piece highlights that the fabric of the light have been slowly eroded over time. I believe that the current plan is that the Spider Light be decommissioned and I guess either allowed crumble, or be removed. A replacement pole! with a light atop is now positioned to mark the spit.
Now John’s plea was driven by a sense of outrage I think. A pal of his had shared a photograph (below) of a similar lighthouse in Cork harbour close to Cobh. The comparisons are clear for anyone to see. The Spider is clearly un-cared for, whilst the cork lighthouse has recently been refurbished and offers a practical stylish use and historical link to times past in the Cork harbour area.
Via Derrick O’Neill Skinner 23/4/16
I know that the Port of Waterford (having replaced the Commissioners), which is tasked to maintain the beacon, has struggled financially in recent years. And it’s pointless to compare the two ports. (And in their defense, I understand that the Cork lighthouse was damaged by a ship strike some years back and insurance may have provided the much needed restoration work there.)  All that being said however, I do believe that if the port was to seek support from the harbour area and the mariners who ply its waters, that the necessary funds and expertise could be leveraged to maintain this heritage landmark.
Too often we lament those that are gone, and wish we had done something about it.  The Port Lairge comes to mind.  Are we to lose yet another feature of our maritime heritage?  One hopes not.

Many thanks to John O’Sullivan and his friends who gathered a lot of information about the topic. Thanks also to the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society  who have promoted the cause of the lighthouse.

Extra information -http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/Surveys/Buildings/BuildingoftheMonth/Archive/Name,1402,en.html

A piece on Alexander Mitchell.  http://www.historyireland.com/18th-19th-century-history/alexander-mitchell-1780-1868-belfasts-blind-engineer/

Blog piece by Pete
http://irishlighthouses.blogspot.ie/2014/09/passage-point-co-waterford.html?m=1

County Waterford Lighthouses link incl Spider and Dunmore East
http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/lighthouse/irlsw.htm

Threatened monuments of Waterford harbour

Some might consider this title a mite provocative.  Indeed others might think on the date of publication and ponder a connection. However, although it is intended to be provocative, it is in no way a joke. The monuments I refer to are at least a millennium old and are quietly slipping into oblivion.  They are the Head Weirs of Waterford harbour and, at this point, are very possibly unique in the world.

Firstly, let me define a monument.  The concise Oxford dictionary states that “3. an ancient building or site etc that has survived or been preserved”  The head weirs certainly fit this definition having been worked over the centuries and regularly maintained by their owners/leasers.

via AJ WENT 1

What is a Head Weir some might ask.  A Head Weir is a method of catching fish which uses the tides to bring the fish to the net. As such in legal terms it is defined as a “Fixed Engine”. The weirs themselves were a V shaped structure. The mouth of the weir is the widest part of the structure. The wings that made the v shape were constructed from straight poles driven by manpower into the riverbed, and held together with horizontal beams. Both wings came together at the “head” from where a net was hung, and it trailed away from the weir. This conical net worked similar to a modern day trawl net.

Depending on the direction they faced, weirs were known as Ebb or Flood weirs. An Ebb weir had its mouth facing upriver, and when the tide was leaving the harbour, it flowed through the mouth, towards the head and concentrated the flow of water into the fishing net, in much the same way a funnel would direct fluid into a bottle.

an indication of the weirs 1950s
via AJ WENT 1

Taking the ebb weir as our example, the net was hauled at low water by bring a punt alongside the weir and hauling down to the cod end. The cod end was taken aboard and the fish emptied into the punt. (In summer time the weirs tended to be used for bait for eel fishing, and in winter they caught bottom fish like cod, flats etc. Herring shoals would be a problem at times, with millions swimming in the habour in just one shoal, weir nets would have to be hauled up, or risk being carried away.) The net was then reset, but would only start fishing again, when the ebb tide started to run. (The tides in Waterford have a 6hr 20min cycle approx)

Duncannon weir. 3

As to the age of the weirs, well even locally there is confusion about this.  Growing up in the harbour, there was uncertainty about the weirs, because a lot of newer weirs were constructed by the landlords in the early 19th C, a method known as the scotch weir, typified by the construction at Woodstown. Many of the older weirs were amended at this time.
However, the Head weirs were recorded in the monastic possessions of the Cistercians during their dissolution. The Cistercians started construction at Dunbrody in the harbour circa 1200.  But it is interesting to note that when the Knights Templars were granted land and ferry rights at Passage and Templetown (1170’s) and “they operated a salmon weir, or fish trap, a large edifice of strong wooden poles, built in the river, which channeled salmon through an ever narrowing chute towards an exit, where they swam into a net“2 What I can’t answer, but suspect, is that they Templars took over an existing structure, rather than building their own,  
Buttermilk castle and weir 3

Interestingly some more recent research has indicated an earlier development of weir in Ireland, but not directly a connection to Waterford. It claims that certain structures in the Shannon and in Co Down, were V shaped structures of stone or wood.  The dates on these structures are Early Christian and records the earliest to between 447-630AD. It also notes that laws, dating 6-7thC, were written to oversee the use of weirs. 

Although I have no proof that the Waterford Harbour weirs are a continuation of use back to Early Christian times, I think they are nevertheless a spectacular connection to Ireland’s ancient east. To allow such structures to simply disappear due to neglect and disinterest (principally due to official disinterest) is to my mind a disgrace, Hopefully, the heritage value of the weirs are realised soon. Otherwise we may have just memories, photographs and written words as a basis to our interpretation of them.
Weirs in the harbour, view from the Hurthill
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.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

1. via Arthur EJ Went.  JRSAI LXXXVII Piece titled Sprat or white fish weirs in Waterford Harbour
2. Niall Byrne, The Irish Crusade.  p107
3. Billy Colfer. The Hook peninsula

Cheekpoints Industrial Era

Today’s blog is a summary of the recent walk conducted to celebrate Heritage Week 2015 and is a narrative of the afternoon and what we encountered.  

Welcome
to Cheekpoint and to this years heritage week event, which is hosted by the
Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project in conjunction with Deena Bible of
Russianside Tours.  This
year we look at an era of significant activity in the village and primarily
between the years 1787-1813 when the official station for the mail packet, or
mail boat, was based here at Cheekpoint.  The walk will also explore the industries which evolved, largely as a consequence of the mail
boat activities.  We will look at the industries themselves but also
glimpse how village life was perceived through the poetry of a young lady named
Elizabeth Owen, daughter of the mail packet manager, Thomas.


The developments that we cover were largely, if not solely, as a consequence of the efforts of the local landlord; Cornelius Bolton.  Several times Mayor, County Sheriff and MP for Waterford he built on the agricultural improvements of his father to secure investment into what might be seen as a pet project.  

Mail Packet Station

Communication
between Britain and Ireland began in an official way during Tudor times.  The
mails to the Waterford area were however an
ad hoc affair.   Over time the Packet
boats 
 had
evolved to carry the packages
of business/government and domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation
between European countries and their colonies. However the service out of
Waterford, and based at Passage East was a privately run operation, carrying
post, but depending largely on
passengers and freight to generate income.  The official postal route
between London and Ireland was Holyhead to Dublin.  Pressure had been
building on the postal service via business interests in the Bristol and the
Waterford area for some time however.
 Correspondence was highly irregular on the existing private service and
the official channel via Dublin was slow, when road transport between the
capital and the cities and towns of Munster was factored in. Further leverage
in the campaign for a regular service appears to have been the need for up to
date intelligence on the French fleet during the Napoleonic wars.

A Cutter

By 1786 the Post Office began working to make a second route to Ireland a
reality and the Cheekpoint Packet officially commenced on 5th April 1787 with
one ship and one sailing a week.  By
June of that year the packet had extended to five trips a week and by August
five ships were running 6 days per week, every day but Saturday


An amazing record was set during this time.  The distance between
Cheekpoint and Milford Haven was 85 miles.  It was covered on
one occasion in 8 hours, but the average seems to have been something
between 9-15 hours.  The ships being used were cutters of about 80-90
tons and known for their speed.  Some of the ships running on the service
in 1788 were; Carteret, Walsinghm, Ponsonby, Clifden and the Tyrone.


Poem: Reflections on
Bolton and the scenes of my infancy

Dear Bolton, where my gayest hours were spent,

When thoughtless childhood found my heart content,

How often round thy hills at morn I stray’d,

And when fierce Sol withdrew, I still delay’d

How often have I climb’d each flow’ry hedge,

How often have I rov’d the river’s edge,

And seen the stately vessels swiftly glide,

Upon the bosom of the lucent tide,

Or mark’d the busy tars those sails unbend,

Which brought to mem’ry then, some absent friend !

Past joys like these, my fancy loves to trace,

Which time, nor change, can alter or efface.



 The Green – Textile Industry
It’s
long speculated that the Green in Cheekpoint owes it’s name to a bleaching
green. 
 
Bleaching was a process used in the textile industry of whiting material to remove
stains from the manufacturing process.  

Julian Walton quoting Matthew Butler relates that “…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)

The mention of Stocking Frames gives some sense of the
work happening in the village at the time. The
industrial revolution saw the creation of many mechanical solutions to
what had previously been a skilled, hand crafted work.
 One such invention was the Stocking Frame, which could make socks, albeit
of poorer quality, but much quicker and cheaper.  The invention gave rise
to the term Luddites – those who rose up and fought against the machines and
the displacement of their work and income.  

As a consequence 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 which 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 poorer
quality material was exported directly to the army, then fighting in the
Napoleonic war.
 

Stocking frame machine
In 1788 Cornelius Bolton
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)

There was also mention 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 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 hand looms. were mistaken for a cotton mill?  Possibly.
 However, 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. 

Its likely that the ending of
the Napoleonic war in
1815, would have seen an end for the demand for the local
produce.  Certainly Samuel Lewis
writing in 1837 noted 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.”

Poem:  On Receiving
a View of Dunbrody Abbey

Tho’ we, my friend, have often stray’d

O’er many a hill, thro’ many a glade,

How chanc’d it that we never met,

In this old monastery yet ?

Where still are seen ‘mongst weeds and stones,

The holy Friars mould’ring bones:-

We might have mus’d till busy thought,

In fancy’s glowing colours brought,

The days,- when ‘mid those cloisters dim,

Was heard the solemn choral hymn ;

When still this aisle,- whose canopy,

Is now yon clear unclouded sky,

Returned in echoes deep and strong,

The matin chime,- or vesper song:

Dobbyns
House.

Dobbyns house was once the home of several sea captains including Captain
White.  There is a story locally that one day the wife of the sea captain
was working in the kitchen when she noticed a sailor falling from the rigging
of her husbands ship.  She rushed out of the house and down to the quay.
 On approaching however, she was restrained.  Her young son, who may
have been an apprentice, or just down helping the deck hands was the person she
had seen falling, and he had died on hitting the deck. Such accidents must have
been a regular occurrence in the village.

Poem:  Written while viewing the
Funeral of a young sailor, who was killed by falling from the mast. 

With drooping colours, see, the sailors bear,

Their late gay messmate, to an early tomb ;

For his sad fate, they drop the silent tear :

Poor hapless blossom nipp’d in life’s young bloom.

Ev’n I, a strangrer to his name and birth,

Feel pity’s soft emotion o’er me creep ;

Yes, I – who lately smil’d in buoyant mirth,

For thee, ill-fated youth – can also weep.
The
Bolton Milepost is one of only two remaining mileposts dating from the time of
the mail station.  The milestones
were obviously part of the road
realignment which sought to ease the passage of carriages and
good vehicles.  The milepost marked the
end of the line for a network that covered most of Munster and included 38
towns. 

The cost of post at that
time was:
for
every single letter, sixpence
for
every double letter, one shilling
for
every treble letter, one shilling and six pence
for
every one ounce, two shillings
and
so in proportion for every packet of deeds, writs, and other things
(Antell:
p19) 

Milepost

The mileposts were taken down
in the “Emergency” for fear that in the event of a German invasion; they would
assist the invading army!  The present
milestone was dug up when the Mount Avenue houses were being constructed and
was repositioned.  Many others no doubt
lie in ditches between here and Waterford. 

Poem:  Epistle to A. H.

Cheekpoint is a wilderness cheerless and drear,

No kind-hearted neighbour to knock at our door,

And could you behold your poor friends pining here,

You’d say we were never deserted before.

The storm’s on the hill, and the dark tempest low’rs,

The city has lur’d all my friends from the plain ;

But summer soon comes with her smiles and her flow’rs

And then like the swallows, they’ll flock here again.
The
Owen’s came to Cheekpoint in 1787 to run the Mail Packet Station. Captain
Thomas Owen and his wife Jane arrived from Milford in Wales where they,
apparently, originated.  They raised their family at Fairymount.  The
family were Quakers, and obviously they would have been welcomed by a
strong community already in place in Waterford.  We don’t know very much
about their lives but when Elizabeth published a book of poetry, Poetical
Recollections, in 1826 it gave hints and insights into what it was to live in
this era.

Although Thomas and Jane had ten children in all, only four survived to
adulthood.  Margaret Owen was born
8/7/1783, Elizabeth 26/6/1787, Samuel 17/3/1792 and finally William, the
youngest was born 13/9/1781.  No mention is made of schooling, but as the
Quakers set up Newtown School in 1798 it is possible, if not probably that
Elizabeth and her younger brothers would have attended. Elizabeth had a strong
affinity with nature and it appears that it was a central feature to her
upbringing.

Poem:  Fairy Hill

My Muse can no longer be
still,

On a spot so luxuriant and gay,

I write in thy praise, FAIRY HILL,

And the subject must sweeten my lay.

How beautiful art thou at morn,

Refresh’d by the dews of the night,

When glittering spangles adorn,

Thy blossoms of blue, pink, and white.

When Nature her beauty bestows,

When soothing the hum of thy bees,

When sweet of the breath of the rose,

Young Zephyrus sighs thro’ thy trees.

How pleasant at noon to retire,

From the glare of the mid-day to the shade,

Where envy itself must admire,

The neatness around us displayed.

And lovelier still to survey,

At eve – when the soul is at rest,

The beams of the sun’s setting ray,

Kiss lightly the blue river’s breast.
Daisybank
opened as a Coaching Inn in 1793.  We know the date as the hotelier, J.
Sly advertised his new Inn in the Waterford Herald. The advertisement is dated
as January 21st 1793  By calling it a new Inn, I think it safe to assume
that the old inn is what we now know as McAlpins, Suir Inn.

I have read three accounts or reviews of those who stayed at the Hotel, none of
them were very positive and one is blunt and to the point “It was dark
before we reached Cheek Point – where there is a large dirty inn – for the
reception of Packet Passengers.  piece from Antell book?

I often wondered why they would have located a hotel on this side of the
village and away from the main road and packet.  Well the buildings of
Ireland website consider the building to be much older. Dating it between
1750-1780 and speculate that it may have been built as a harbour masters home
or a constabulary barracks.  

Daisy bank – the coaching Inn

We know that during famine times it was still in use as a hotel but by 1888 it
became a family home and has been used as such since.  So it must have
given employment to the area for over 100 years.

Poem:  Written
after attending the funeral of an old and faithful servant

When living, I promis’d
thee, shouldst thou depart

Before me, – a tribute of praise should be thine,

Tho’ lowly and poor – yet I valued thy heart ;

‘T was faithful and honest -in these didst thou shine.

Thy labours are ended ;- beside the old pile,

O’ergrown with dark ivy, we buried the deep ;

And green is the sod or thy own native isle,

Beneath it, poor MARY, in peace dost thou sleep.
Ropewalk, Brick Kiln,
Mines, Slate Quarries and fishing trade.
Much
of the other industries that evolved in the village during this period are now
largely forgotton, save for a placename or a feature of the landscape.
 There was reputed to have been a brick kiln in the Rookery end of the
village, but anything of this operation seems to have disappeared.
 Perhaps it was a consequence of the building boom that would have
accompanied the packet.  Likewise the Slate quarries, although in this
case the remains of at least two can be seen at the Barn Quay end of the
village in Coolbunnia and it was believed anonther was located at nooke in
Wexford.  Locally it was said that the slate was of too poor a quality and
the importation of welsh slate to easy, to make the quarry worthwhile.

Cobalt mining was another initiative that seems to have been a failure.
 one Colonel Hall was the chief protagonist in this opertation and as children
we were often cautioned about old mine pits in the faithlegg area that we would
be as well to avoid.  

The ropewalk, where we now stand was another operation and was most likely a
going concern for a number of years, given the need for rope and cordage
associated with shippping and the fishing trade in the area.  Ropewalks
existed in several areas of the city and in Portlaw associated with malcomson’s
mill.  As an example of the quantity of rope required at the time, a
sailing ship similar to those larger vessels who visited Waterford in 2011 for
the Tall Ships event would have needed 3 miles of rope.   

Poem:  The
Shipwreck

The bark was toss’d – for the wind was high,

And fearfully flew the spray ;

Twas dismal to hear the seaman’s cry,

Of “lighten by cutting away !”

The masts were gone with a stunning sound,

And the vessel became a wreck ;

The steersman’s voice in all the din was drown’d,

As he summon’d all hands on deck.

The storm increas’d,- twas an awful night,

For the Angel of Death was near,

They pray’d to the king of glory bright,

And he turned not away his ear.

His mighty hand, brought them safe to shore,

It was stretch’d in their hour of grief ;

When feeble man could preform no more,

The arm of the Lord brought relief.



Summer House
I
was always curious about the purpose of the Summerhouse but growing up, there
were no answers just speculations.  My grandmother had it that a woman
used to sit here and write poetry.  I always thought she referred to Kathy
Leech who lived in the
street.  However it came as a surprise to be given a gift of Elizabeth
Owen’s book some years back and to find the following poem;
Poem: Lines Written in a Summer House 1924

1824

Welcome to this calm retreat,

Call’d the little fancy tow’r;

Shelter’d from the summer heat,

Freely pass a social hour.

Eastward turn-and you behold,

The Abbey, graceful in decay,-

Westward-mark the clouds of gold,

Glancing in the setting ray.

Here the hill, – and there the vale,-

Taste delight in such a view;

Now a bark with spreading sail,

Gently skims the river blue.

Kindered love doth here repose,

In each other, all are blest;-

May that peace which virtue knows,

Shed its sunshine o’er each breast.




Cheekpoint Quay

It’s fitting then that we end where we strated from.  The mail packet was
moved in 1813, the same year that Captain Thomas Owen died.  The tides,
currents and contrary winds made the journey from Cheekpoint to the open sea a
challange to steep.  The packet had faced early criticism and the reality
was that whatever about summer sailings along the south east coast, winter
sailings were a precarious venture.

These ships were embarking and disembarking from the village, but not the
present quay, which was extensively refurbished in the 1870’s.  By 1810
plans were announced for a new port at Dunmore East, as the site at Cheekpoint
was considered too far upriver, against strong currents and
wind dependent.  In 1813 it moved back to Passage East and by 1818 to
it’s purpose built home at Dunmore.  In 1834 the service relocated to the
city of Waterford.  

Following it’s relocation ships continued to call to the village, but it’s
clear that the village went into serious economic decline from that point
forward.  In
my youth the only employment in the village was seafaring the fishing with some
jobs in the local pub/resturaunts.  Today we are a
satellite village of the city depending on it for work.  Our only
employment now is the
tourism sector.  Hopefully some element of fishing can be restored.

Poem:  Review of Childhood

Ah ! let me for awhile recal those hours,

When I in chlildhood round the village stray’d,

To gather blackberries or cull sweet flow’rs,

Whose wild profusion deck’d the verdant glade.

Remembrance blest ! for ever, ever dear,

Then, who like me so innocent and gay ;

Fond mem’ry sheds one silent sorrowing tear,

O’er days so bright, forever fown away.

Ye tranquil hours, and blissful scenes, farewell !

The thoughts of BERTHA oft shall turn to you,

While time around ye pours a sacred spell ;

Sweet spots of happy infancy – Adieu !

Many
thanks for joining us on our walk, safe home, and we look forward to seeing you
back again next year for another Heritage Week event.

Sources:

Antell. R.  The mails between South West Wales and Southern Ireland: The Milford-Waterford packet 1600-1850.  2011.  Welsh Philatelic Society.

Copies can be ordered directly by contacting the Welsh Philatelic Society, contact details on their website at http://www.wps.wales.org/

Bill Irish wrote a wonderful piece about the Waterford packet in Decies #60 link to online version here: http://snap.waterfordcoco.ie/collections/ejournals/100704/100704.pdf
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

I’d like to thank Andy Kelly who originally passed me on the book of poetry. Also like to acknowledge Christopher Moriarty of the Irish Quaker Historical Library who provided many of the details of the family which I used.

 

 

Cheekpoints Textile industry of the late 18th C

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
http://www.oldandinteresting.com/history-of-laundry.aspx
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

Cheekpoint’s era as an industrial village

In 1785 Cornelius Bolton along with other investors bought out the Mail Packet Station, then based at Passage East and moved it upriver to Cheekpoint, Co Waterford.  Around this business, Bolton built a vibrant industrial village.  The man who came to run the Packet, a Welsh Quaker named Thomas Owen arrived in 1787 with two cutters and his family.  His youngest daughter Elizabeth recorded her observations of the village and her family in poetry and in 1826 published a book entitled “Poetical Recollections”.

A Cutter, picture accessed from
https://southayrshirehistory.wordpress.com/tag/smuggling/

For this years Heritage week, Cheekpoint Fishing Heritage Project, which has participated in Heritage Week since 2005,  will partner with Russianside Tours to provide a walk and talk entitled Cheekpoints Industrial Age as perceived through the poetry of Elizabeth.  It will be held on Saturday 22nd August 2015 at 5pm and commences at Cheekpoint Quay.

Waterford has a wealth of early Industrial Heritage which we can sometimes ignore, despite the evidence being right before our eyes.  A report from Dublin Civic Trust highlights this in the county of Waterford but alas doesn’t include much of what occurred at Cheekpoint.

We have met Cornelius Bolton and the list of his and his fathers achievements before.  Cheekpoint would see the development of a cotton mill and textile industry, a rope walk, brick kiln, cobalt and slate mining, a new road alignment, hotel and a regular coach service to connect the city with the packets.  There has also been rumor of ship building in the village.

All of these developments centered around the Packet, but from early on, there was criticism.  Given that the ships relied on wind power, and that Cheekpoint was so far up the harbour, there was much disquiet and criticism.  The authorities were looking at moving the station further down the harbour to Dunmore East.  We will look at this, and some of the enterprises mentioned above, in more detail on the blog in the coming weeks.

What of Elizabeth however.  Well her parents Thomas and Jane Owen had ten children, but many died in childbirth or very young.  Four survived to adulthood; Eleanor, Elizabeth, William and Samuel.

Her mother Jane died at Cheekpoint in 1811 and her father followed his wife in 1813.  These times are reflected on by Elizabeth and there is much sadness and loneliness evoked.  There is also, of course, many pieces that give a sense of the village, the maritime connection, her love of nature and and her privileged position within the community.

The death of Thomas Owen, was a prelude to what would befall the village, Cornelius Bolton and the packet. Following his death, but probably not because of it, the Mail Packet station moved back to Passage East.  Bolton was forced to sell off parts of the business and his land to repay his debts, culminating in the sale of his mansion at Faithlegg to Nicholas Mahon Power. The Packet would later be taken from private enterprise when in 1823 the Post Office took over the role and of course Steam was on the way too! Coincidentally, Thomas died on July 24 1813.  To borrow a phrase from a man very popular here in Waterford – On this day!

Please join us on Saturday 22nd August at 5pm at Cheekpoint Quay to explore the poetry of Elizabeth Owen and Cheekpoint’s Industrial Age.

We will also provide our regular walks, as part of the 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.