Halfway House Mill

Last week we looked at the operation of a saltwater mill, which harnessed the tides to power a mill wheel to grind local corn. This week, we will look at another innovative water-powered wheel, but this time it was freshwater, harnessed by man.

Just off the main Waterford to Cheekpoint road is a derelict building that is often mistaken as a castle. It’s actually a water-driven corn mill. I have no information on the date of the building, although I speculated before that it may be mid 19th century, really that is only a guesstimate. Looking at the old historic maps gives a bit more of an insight.

One of the earliest (6 inch map drawn between 1829-1841) gives us the name Newport corn mill, presumably of the banking and political family. At the time of the Griffiths Valuation (1847-64), Thomas and William Manning were leasing a house and extensive mill property from Simon Newport valued at £31. A later map (25″ drawn between 1897-1913) gives us Brook Lodge Mill, after the nearby house. I also read accounts in the contemporary newspapers of the late 19th and early 20th Century called it Halfway House Mill. When I was growing up, I only heard it referred to as Delahunty’s, the last operator of the mill.

It always seems to evoke the quintessential image of a mill site in the era of the horse-drawn carriage, bringing crops to be milled on the site via the small country lanes. The walled boundary, gates, the related buildings which included living accommodation, a piggery and one of the maps shows the Post Office on the site.

PO = Post Office, seen here in the later era 25″ map.

I mentioned already that some think the ruins are of an old castle. Another common misconception is that the stream that flows between the mill and the Ballyvoreen Road is the water source of the mills power. Strictly speaking, it is not. You see the mill was built at a time when greater engineering enhancements were being employed in the design and construction. In order to maximise the productivity of the mill, a water source was drawn from a man-made pond about 300 yards upstream on the Brook Lodge estate.

The Mill as it looks today. Andrew Doherty

To get the water to the mill 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 we see is fed by a spillway of the dam, to release the excess water.

Once ahead of water was built up, and there was corn to be milled, the water was released into the headrace and it coursed down to the mill and was directed over the wheel (overshot)to drive the gears and belts that milled the corn. Wheels which were fed by water from atop 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 where it disappears under the main road through a second arch in the bridge.
Despite searching and asking locally I could find very little about the actual operation at the site.

The pond and leat in blue leading down from Book Lodge towards the mill

Previously when conducting a guided tour, a gentleman related a sad account of the loss of a relative who was drowned in the pond at Brook Lodge. If I recollect it accurately it was the son of the mill operator at the time, Delahunty, and two other teenage boys from the locality. I found a few accounts in the local papers subsequently. The three young men were Edward Delahunty (18) of Brook Lodge and brothers David (20) and Thomas (18) Murphy of Brook Lodge. They had gone swimming at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 13th June 1900 and from the accounts, it would appear that Edward got into difficulties, and each of the Murphy brothers who tried to assist suffered a similar fate. Their bodies were recovered at 1 am on Thursday after the pond was drained. A public fund was later set up for the widow Murphy whose “means of support have now been taken from her”

Source: Irish Times. Friday 15th June 1900. Francis Brennan lived on the Cheekpoint road on the left past Kennedys. The family has since died out and the walls of the ruined house are still to be seen.

I found a very interesting piece on the mills of Waterford in 1903, which records that Delahuntys Mill was still in operation then, although milling oats only. (I am including the whole piece at the end to the curious reader, of which I know there will be many ). At about the time that the article was written a new grain silo had been built on Waterford’s North Quays, harnessing water again; this time a deep water location allowing for the importation of grain. The large industrial mill (Waterford Flour Mills) at RH Halls on Waterford North Quays came into operation in the 1930s and I would imagine that Delahunty’s became commercially non-viable not long after. Again for the curious reader, an excerpt from David Carroll is included below on this operation.

A curious event at the mill, suggesting a social aspect to the site also. Major Cuffe was living at Woodlands House at the time. Source: Waterford Standard. Wednesday 06 September 1899; page 3
Mark Power of Epic Locations caught a wonderful bit of footage of the site at the outset of this video.

The late Eddie Delahunty of Kilcullen told me previously that he could recall as a youngster being at the mill and remembered the clanking of the machinery and the hauling away of bags of milled oats by horse and cart. Eddie thought at the time, that this was during the “Emergency Era” or Second World War and that the mill had been closed but reactivated.
The reality of almost all technology is that it has a finite lifespan. The salt mill became redundant due as much to silt as the slowness and unproductive nature of tidal power on the Pill. Delahunty’s despite its advancements was outstripped by newer designs and enhancements and a need for economies of scale.

We will have two blogs next week. On Thursday David Carroll will guest blog on a rescue off the Waterford coast by the Dunmore East RNLI in an On This Day slot. On Friday I will complete the Halfway House segment with some new research on the Ice House and the Limekilns on the site.

The following article from the Waterford Standard – Wednesday 14 October 1903; page 4 is included here in full for the interest of readers who would like to know more detail on the mills in operation in the area at the time. “A number of mills, which at one time ground flour, now only work in maize or Indian corn and oats, which are ground into meal. My return is based on information derived from the best possible sources, and I have done all I could to ensure its accuracy. There are besides those mentioned number of ruined mills scattered through district. White Brothers’ mill was one of the largest flour mills in Ireland, and the premises which are dismantled and used as stores are now the possession of Messer’s R and H Hall, Limited. Brown’s, Farrell’s, and Pouldrew Mills do a very extensive trade, and are fitted with the most up-to-date machinery. The following is a detailed list Waterford City—White Bros.’ Mill, O’Connell street, closed about 15 years ago; Finn’s Mill, O’Connell-street, closed ; Finn’s Mill, Johnstown, at present meal only. Waterford County Delahunty’s Mill, Brook Lodge,  Cowes Mill, Old Tramore Road ; Cowes Mill, New Tramore Road; Walshe’s Mill, Kilmacthomas;  Flahavan’s Mill, Kilmacthomas—these five at present grind oats only.  Corrig Castle Mills, closed;  Pouldrew Mill, Kilmeaden, extensive steam and water power, flour and meal. Kilkenny County—Kelly’s, Copeland’s, Strange’s, Loughrea’s, Freeman’s, and Duggan’s, all Kilmacow, the first three closed, remainder grinding oats only ; Kennedy’s, Glasshouse, grinding oats only; Brown’s. Kilmacow, extensive flour and meal.  Farrell’s. Kilmacow, flour and meal; Cronin’s, Kilmacow, flour and meal; Gaul’s Mills, flour and meal”

I’m indebted to David Carroll for the following details on Halls.   One of the final remnants of Waterford’s proud shipping heritage was the R & H Hall grain store on the city’s North Quays. Built in 1905, the building was built by William Friel, the Waterford Harbour Commissioners engineer, whose remarkable career extended from the 1890s to the 1960s.  The building was designed by French engineer Francois Hennebique, using steel-reinforced concrete.  R & H Hall was founded in Cork as far back as 1839 and quickly became one of the leading suppliers of animal feed in the country.  In 1935 Waterford Flour Mills (WFM) was built.  Government policy at the time was crucial. They wanted imports of flour eliminated and huge incentives were given to grow the native milling industry which consisted mainly of small rural units.  WFM was part of this regeneration and was a fine modern complex completely new and fitted out with latest technology.  Being next to R& H Hall was crucial as foreign wheat could be drawn across on a conveyor system. No road transport required. This was a major advantage.   The inclusion of Canadian wheat  ( from the Manitoba Province)  was essential to mill flour for breadmaking as the protein content of native wheat was insufficient.   Native wheat, on its own, was fine for flour for cakes and biscuits but not for bread so a blended  mix of imported / native wheats were used, known as the ‘grist’.  IAWS, who at this stage were the owners of R & H Hall sold the property in 2005, the final piece was sadly demolished in 2018.

The lovely and calming sound of running water on the site to end. Thanks to Seán

I have set up a dedicated page for Water Heritage Day this year. I will gather all the elements of the Halfway House story there and any links etc to the day. I also have a link to this event on the Heritage Week website.

This year’s event is again supported by the Local Authorities Waters Programme.

Jack Meades heritage ramble

Jack Meades pub and restaurant has got to be one of the more remarkable and intriguing 18th Century agricultural sites in the country.  As a young man I hadn’t much time for the older men who drank there, preferring to spend my time having the craic and the beer with my own generation. But at my present age, and with my interest in our local heritage, I often rue the opportunities I would have had to ask the older people about the buildings that litter the area, all within a stones throw of the pub.
The pub itself is fascinating, dating as it has since 1705. I’ve written about its landlords and the lineage of the present owners before. You’ve got to have respect for those who have managed to sustain and transform a business in the countryside when so much has changed in our attitudes as a country to drinking and driving. Part of that business is to protect and allow access to a varied amount of heritage related buildings which we went along to see on our most recent free bank holiday Monday rambles.
Standing outside the main door to the pub
Photo Michael Farrell
The pub of course is synonymous with its location beside the bridge, which may owe its origins to the Malcomson family and their attempt to run a rail line between the city and Passage East.  It earns the pub the distinction of Ireland’s only fly over bridge.  But of course it has a number of bridges on the site, as at least one, and perhaps two others allow the Ballycanvan stream to flow under the Cheekpoint Road that itself passes under the main structure.
The Bridge and pub looking towards Cheekpoint
Photo Michael Farrell
Across the road we stood beside the old Delehunty corn mill and discussed its amazing design features including an overshot wheel within the building and the man made leat that runs from Brook Lodge, from where the water to run the mill was released via a man made pond.  It was wonderful to have a relation of the Delehuntys that ran the mill all those years ago present, but sad too as he reminded us of the tragedy at the pond when his relation and two young companions drowned while swimming there.
I need to tie my hands to my body I’m afraid!
At least I wasn’t waving a stick this time.
Delehuntys Mill Photo by John O’ Sullivan

The Ice House of course is an impressive structure, which I have also discussed before.  We looked at its design, the supply of ice and the likely purpose it was put to. Then it was along to the Lime Kilns down the Pill, and a discussion about the process of lime burning, how the lime stone was brought and the likely uses of the finished product.  I got a surprised reaction from many when I related how the lime was used to treat the waste from a dry toilet, something I had seen myself at my grans in the 1980’s. Just as well Carmel, a relation from England, didn’t mention to all but myself and a few within earshot of how it was used over corpses, particularly in times of plague.

The Ice House above and one of the double Lime Kilns on the site
Photo Michael Farrell
We then discussed the old salt water mill that resides on private lands down towards the mouth of the Pill, and how in the past, in a way similar to the monks at Dunbrody, the incoming tide was retained behind sluice gates only to be released when the tide below the mill was lower and gravity allowed the mill wheel to be turned by the water returning to its source.
We rambled up to look back on Ballymaclode Castle and discuss her twin tower at Ballycanvan that later became a fine Georgian mansion of the same name.  And returning to the pub we passed off Redmonds forge where in the past not along horses were shod, but implements of farm works and fishermen were repaired or made.
The walk was recorded for posterity by Paul from Waterford in your Pocket, and it gives a real sense of the day and the walk.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rGIQ1KYaKI
Our next event will be the June Bank Holiday Monday, commencing at 11am at Faithlegg House Hotel and will look at the history surrounding the Faithlegg estate. I’m only hoping the spirit and enthusiasm of those who came yesterday is repeated. Delighted to see familiar faces, and great to meet many new ones too. Young and old seemed to enjoy it, and the questions and the comments were all helpful in my own learning. A young lad from sixth class in Faithlegg was at my side through the walk, and he has an obvious eye for his local heritage. For Facebook users we have an event page here which we will use to keep people updated on the Faithlegg heritage ramble .
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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and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
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