Abandoned ireland

 

Overton Mill,

Co. Cork.

Documenting our Heritage

The Overton cotton mills were built by George Allman and his sons Francis and James around the year 1805.


Initially George Allman had operated a cotton mill driven by horses. George was described as a highly intelligent man and was well known for his engineering talents, towards the end of the 18th century it was becoming clear that the Cork cotton industry would only survive if modern industrial techniques were employed. Around 1800 George sent his son to Lancashire, England to study the modern English cotton mills.


When his son returned to Ireland, George Allman acquired forty six acres of land at Overton and began the construction of a five story mill. The mill was completed at a cost of around £10,000.


The mill is described by Horatio Townsend in his survey of 1815:

highly distinguished for ingenuity as well as enterprise, It is one hundred and thirty four feet long, thirty four feet wide and fifty feet high. There are five floors, all underlaid with sheet iron to diminish the risk of fire. It is capable of containing ten thousand spinning spindles, with all the machinery necessary for supplying them with prepared cotton, by which thirty hundred pounds of it may be spun per week. The number of persons necessary for attending the work is from two hundred and fifty to three hundred. The motion that sets them at work is communicated by an iron wheel, forty feet in diameter, so equally and admirably constructed as to be set going by a moderate stream of water.’


By 1820 a second wing was added to the mill and at its peak of production the mill employed over 600 workers.


However it wasn’t long before the cotton industry fell steeply into decline. Protective tariffs introduced prior to the Act of Union were being phased out, leaving the Irish industry competing directly with the larger and better equipped English mills.


By 1851 the mill had closed and the Allman family had abandoned the cotton industry altogether, they started a new business distilling whiskey.


The mills found a new use, during the Famine they were used as a workhouse and housed hundreds of starving, destitute people. Conditions inside the workhouse combined with the emaciated state of its inhabitants led to many deaths. At the height of the famine it was said that every day the undertaker would make several trips from the mill to the paupers’ graveyard, and on every trip his cart was loaded with the grim corpses of those that had starved to death or fell victim to disease. The mill developed a reputation for being badly haunted by ghosts of the Famine victims.


With the cotton industry long behind them, the Allman family continued to develop their distillery business. By 1880 the Allman distillery was producing some 500,000 gallons of Old Pot Still Whiskey and Pure Malt Whiskey annually.


The whiskey business would also eventually fail, little remains of the Allman distillery today, just one grain store which is now used to house farm supplies.


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