In Development: The Mill Project
Filament Fibre Artists have commenced a year of development for an exciting new exhibition. The group will use the old mill beside Sheila Jordan’s home in Kells Co. Kilkenny as the inspiration for this new project.
Over the next eighteen months the group will spend time drawing and studying the mill its environs and its history, using it as a source for a body of work we will show in the latter half of 2013.
The origins of Hutchinson’s/Boland’s Mill traces back to 1193, when it was owned by Augustinian monks from Cornwall (the nearby impressive Augustinian Priory dates from the same time). The building which now stands on the 12th century site was built at a much later date, probably the beginning of the 18th century. It remained the property of the Augustinians until 1540; Cromwell had ownership at one time and gave it to a man named Holohan. By the middle of the 18th century ownership had passed to people called Phelan who milled for many years. In 1825 Richard Hutchinson bought it and left it to his nephew, also called Richard Hutchinson, who ran the mill from 1912 to 1939 when he became ill. Lily Hutchinson, his daughter, took over the running of the mill when her father died in 1940 and ran it successfully through the difficult war years. She married Arthur Boland in 1954 and he ran the mill until his untimely death in 1979, aged 58. The mill was idle in the years from 1979 to 1983 when Oliver Mosse leased the building and produced Kells Wholemeal between 1983 and 1987. Bill Mosse took over the running of the mill between 1987 and 1990 when it ceased milling and has been idle since.
The 5-storey Mill, ‘L’ shaped in plan, is situated in one of the most attractive mill environments in Ireland, beside the beautiful Kings River. The waterfeed for the external waterwheel is located at the end of the foot of the ‘L’, and is bled off from the Kings River. The fairly wide headrace has an overflow sluice gate immediately to the side of the wheel. Little has changed here over the years. The river rises and falls with the seasons but the wheels no longer turn.
Originally the gearing inside the mill which transmitted the power from the waterwheel to the stones would have been made from wood but at the end of the 18th century the mill owners, to increase productivity and survive commercially, introduced transmission gearing with bevel gear wheels made from cast iron. The main wheel shaft came from nearby Ennisnag Merino Factory in 1916. There were 7 Mills on the Kings River between Kells and Thomastown. Some are still standing, others now in ruin.
The Mill worked on commission. The farmer owned the corn which was ground at a price per Bushel. In those days a farmer aimed to grow enough wheat to supply his family with the wholemeal for the year and enough Barley and oats to feed his cattle, horses, sheep and hens – also for the year ahead. It was an excellent system, giving security to the farmer and his household. During the war farmers were allowed to keep 1 Bushel of wheat per member of his household per year so they were never short of wheatmeal to make bread.
Harvest time was very busy in the mill. All the wheat had to be dried before it was milled and if the harvest was wet most of the barley and oats also needed drying. The grain was hauled up to be dried either in the drying lofts or in the kiln room. The grain was fed to the stones through the shoots sunk in the upper floors of the mill. Each grain demanded a different stone dressing and for fine ground grain riddling and screening was also necessary.
The mill was a hive of activity when the wheels turned. ‘The whole interior is covered in a fine white dust; bags of grain sit about filled to the brim giving off a unique wholesome smell which only crushed grain has. The noise, too, is unique. The swish of the waterwheel is accompanied by a muffled clinking noise as metal hits on metal and the rushing water pushes the paddles forward and upwards turning as it does the pit wheel, which in turn, turns the bull wheel, which turns the spur wheel, which turns the crown wheel, which turns the mill stones which grind the grain.’ From an article by Anne Davey Orr July 1978 Ireland’s Water Mills