Friday, 19 January 2018

Old mill complex is a reminder
of Askeaton’s industrial heritage

Two buildings survive in the former Abbey Mill complex in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I have been writing these days about how there are still signs in Askeaton that this was once a thriving, trading port on the Shannon Estuary, shipping grain, corn, cattle and agricultural produce to and from Limerick.

Two clues of this past are provided by the derelict Victorian corn warehouse on the Quay and the former Tall Trees Nursing Home or Abbey Lodge, which was once the miller’s house.

Abbey Lodge stands on the east bank of the River Deel, beside the site of the former Abbey Mills.

The Abbey Mill may have originated with a mill established by the Franciscan friars to utilise the power available from a small stream as it fell from a significant height into the River Deel as it flowed swiftly into the estuary of the River Shannon.

The succession of waterfalls on the river upstream of the town was used for milling and the mill site at Aghalacka may have served the castle from an early date.

The River Deel is navigable up to Askeaton at high tide and this facilitated the establishment of a significant fishing industry that existed until the mid-20th century, and it also allowed for the export of corn and flour to serve the local economy.

Abbey Mills is a substantial mill complex with a frontage of about 30 metres to the River Deel, and stretching back more than 90 metres. Beyond this to the east there is a sluice at the roadside that originally governed the water supply to the mill wheel.

Broken windows at the former Abbey Mill complex in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The two main surviving buildings from the mill complex are four storeys in height and built of limestone, with a dressed stone fa├žade to the river.

The larger building, at the water’s edge, was built in 1796 and is three bays in width and 10 bays in length. The smaller building is two bays wide and four bays in length. The roofs are hipped and slated. This was originally a corn mill and in the 20th century was used as a creamery.

Although no longer in use, the buildings retain many of their original form and features, including brick surrounds, timber battened doors and slate roofs. The tooled limestone walls lend textural interest to the buildings.

The Condensed Milk Company of Ireland acquired the mill in 1909 and it was used as a creamery from 1927 until recently.

The mill complex has been vacant for some years since the plans to develop an hotel on the site were abandoned during the recent economic crisis. But these buildings retain their architectural, technical and historical interest, and they are a reminder of the industrial heritage of Askeaton.

The mill complex in Askeaton has been vacant for some years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The miller’s house remains
an interesting feature in
the landscape of Askeaton

The former Tall Trees Nursing Home on the Quay was also known as Abbey Lodge and was built as the miller’s house around 1810 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing yesterday how there are still signs in Askeaton that this was once a thriving, trading port on the Shannon Estuary, shipping grain, corn, cattle and agricultural produce to and from Limerick.

One clue of this past is provided by the derelict Victorian corn warehouse on the Quay. Another is the former Tall Trees Nursing Home on the Quay, which was previously known as Abbey Lodge.

This is a detached, three-bay two-storey house that was first built around 1810 as a miller’s house and was linked with the neighbouring Abbey Mills.

This house is an early 19th century two-storey villa. It is square in plan and with three bays on each side. The entrance door faces south and has a portico or flat-roofed porch with Doric columns supporting a moulded entablature.

The roof is hipped and slated. The main gate is of made of wrought iron and has intersecting sunbursts or spider-web patterns. It is flanked by wrought iron gate piers.

The square-headed windows at the front are six-over-six pane timber sliding sash windows with painted stone sills.

Recently, there have been some inappropriate extensions to the house, including a recent multiple-bay single-storey extension to the south and a four-bay two-storey extension to the west.

But the house retains much of its original form and character outside, despite recent additions and alterations. It stands above the banks of the River Deel, south of Abbey Mills, and originally it was part of the mill complex.

It remains a prominent feature in the landscape of Askeaton and is enhanced by its good quality boundary walls. In recent years, work began on converting the former Tall Trees nursing home into a small hotel. The project was abandoned during the financial crisis, and I wonder whether it is beyond rescue, because Askeaton deserves a decent hotel and a good restaurant.

The main gate, made of wrought iron with intersecting sunbursts, is flanked by wrought iron gate piers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)