Introduction to Belmont Mills

5:00 PM Posted by sara e.
53.24801 -7.89203
Today, Erin, Steve, and I had an introductory meeting with Belmont Mills owners Tom Dolan and Sandy Lloyd. The following are my notes and impressions. Unfortunately the audio recording didn't come out due to technical difficulties, so I'll have to rely on my notes and memory to retain the information that was presented.
History:
  • The Belmont Mills site is 4.5 acres. There are a number of buildings:
    • Mill Owner’s house was built in 1860.
    • “Dung Stead” is located off the horse yard
    • Horse stable, now artist studios. The violin maker is located in the former engine repair shop, the upstairs apartments were haylofts
    • Granary Building
    • Oat Mill Building
    • c. 1880 Office Building (which had bars on the building and 5 safes inside)
  • Perry family bought the site in 1854 from the Collins
  • Up to 70 employees working at the mill
  • Automated mill, closed energy system. Water running through the building provided the power. The waterpower determined the location of the mill.
  • At one point, lines of farmers extended down the road outside the mill and into Belmont village waiting to unload bags of oats.
  • The mill’s products were originally sold locally, at one point it was the biggest mill in central Ireland. The mill’s product list changed after Ireland gained independence and the British government subsidy ended. The mill owners needed to earn more so they began milling animal feed. In 1948 the Irish government ended their subsidy and the mill stopped making flour; other grains were milled in the old building until 1972.
  • Ultimately, the mill couldn’t survive because of its inland location.
Restoration
  • Tom and Sandy purchased the mill complex as a job lot in 1997.
  • The 2002 industrial archaeology report contains a detailed history of the site from 1769. It indicated that the restoration would cost a small amount of money. The County Heritage Council paid for the report after the fact.
  • They began the restoration after a few years, they felt obligated after putting the roof on and becoming interested in the social and industrial history. They see themselves as the caretakers of the mill complex.
  • Restoration didn’t require structural work, it was solidly built with a foundation more than seven feet thick.
  • Participated in the “Leader” rural regeneration/enterprise program, which gave the mill the state stamp of approval. The state awarded 100,000 to Belmont Mill and Tom spent 200,000. One of the conditions of the funding award is that the site must be open to the public for a minimum of sixty days/year.
  • Tom and Sandy hope to earn enough from admissions to keep the mill buildings open.
  • The commercial properties pay for themselves.
  • Tom is torn about making the mill a business.
Impressions: As a preservation/stewardship story, Tom and Sandy’s dedication is remarkable. Their motivations seem benevolent and altruistic. They feel a true responsibility as owners of the mill complex to respectfully care for it to preserve it and its story for posterity. I’m also amazed by the history of this small mill – its ties to globalization in the 19th century with wheat being imported from as far away as Manitoba and Minnesota. It is also notable that it was so significant nationally in Ireland.