About 800 years ago the Normans brought the skill of using water powered mills to grind grain to many villages along the Suir  and in particular  to Kells Co Kilkenny. When we visited Kells we saw the remains of two mills.

One in full working order and one partially restored.We learned that there was a total of 16 mills along the Kings River. The river got its name because the King drowned trying to save his loyal servant. There is an old saying ‘If you spit into the river a mile down  it will overflow’. We went to visit a mill called the Mullins mill.

At  the  head  of the  Mill  was  a  mill  race.  The water was controlled  by this  sluice  gate.  The  water  flowed over  the  Millwheel. The Millwheel turned the other  wheels inside. To set a the inside in motion large belts were applied about smaller wheels. To stop the operation the belt was removed by a lever.

History of Mullins mill

Around the year 1200  Geoffrey FitzRobert built his own mill in Kells. The site of the mill was carefully chosen in relation to the fall of the river and its flow. The mill site is Right before where the FitzRoberts castle gate would have led from  the castle motte On to the old roadway beside the river. Mills could only be set up with a special Licence from the local landlord . The Mullins family were French protestants Who came to Ireland during the 17th century. The first known Mullins miller, Patrick married Elanor Comerford in 1790. At first a flax mill, was set up beside the grain mill. In the early days about 80 percent of the land was sown with wheat barley and oats.

History of Bolands Mill 

We saw Bolands Mill, this large old 5 storey mill has being restored. It is called after Arthur Boland a Mayo man who married Lilly Hutchenson in 1954.

The Working of the Mill

We went into one of the mills. Outside the mill there was one large mill wheel.  It is an undershot wheel. Undershot is when the water goes under the millwheel and turns it anti clockwise. The wheel was made of iron and wood. When we went inside the mill we saw two big wooden gears or cogs. The cogs had to be greased every two months.  A metal bar was joined to the wheel and was connected to each story in the mill.

What went on in the mill?

On the ground floor all the grain was collected and weighed. We saw old fashioned Weighing scales, slashers, wooden shovels, knives and an old wooden trolley for Carrying the bags of grain.

Mill  Tools

Second Floor

On the second floor the grain was ground into flour by milling stones. These stones Turned and ground the corn. Also on this floor there tiles with holes on them for Drying the corn.

Third Floor

The third floor is a café for tourists in the summer.                                     

The drying of the grain

On the first floor there was a Furnace. Hot air would rise up trough tiles. These were Special tiles called Kiln tiles. They had holes  through which the  hot air passed  to  dry the grain.

The life of a Miller.
There is a thatched cottage across the road from the mill it was here  the miller lived.
The last miller Paddy Mullins died age 57. The principal worker in the mill was the miller.  He was responsible for adjusting the mill stones and production decisions. He was also in charge of the grinding process and of blending the various varieties of wheat to produce good quality flour.

The Millwright

The millwright  set the mill machinery.

The Stonedresser

He dressed the stones and the Wheelwright repaired the of the wheel.

The Millstones

The millstones were always used in pairs. They were made from stone called French Burr which was quarried in the Paris basin. The stones were made up of 18 pieces of stone shaped and fitted together in a circle with plaster of Paris and banded with iron bands.

The lower stone had often to be dressed by a stone dresser. He cut ‘grooves’ and ‘lands’ into the two stones. The quality the flour often depended on the expertise of the stonedresser.

This  project is  by Fifth Class after a visit  to Kells as part of  SIP.  May 2000
Thanks  to  our  guests  at  Kells  for  all  the  information.