Ireland’s industrial heritage along the greenway
We cycled the new Waterford greenway, which runs for 46 kilometres along the Dungarvan to Waterford old train line. One of the stops on the greenway is the quaint small town of Kilmacthomas, where this impressive 7 arch stone rubble rail viaduct which spans over the River Mahon, dominates the local landscape. It opened in 1878 for the Great Southern railway line and was in operation for 100 years before closing in 1982 and today you can take in the views when you cycle or walk across it as part of the greenway.
We stopped for lunch in Kilmacthomas and passed a large building which caught my eye, it is a 3 storey, 19th-century warehouse stone building with red brick windows. According to the local information board, the building which is located along the Mahon river was a former woollen factory.
During the famine in 1846, Lady Louisa Beresford, the wife of the local landlord, Lord Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford, helped to set up a weaving and clothing industry for the women of the village. She imported cotton from Lancashire and encouraged her society friends in England to buy the finished products. Lady Louisa was a Pre-Raphaelite watercolourist and philanthropist, she had married Henry in 1842 and lived in Curraghmore House in county Waterford.
Much of this was a cottage industry, with women using spinning wheels in their home. It was decided that a woollen industry would be more suitable.
Thirty women were employed, who wore a uniform, similar to Lady Louisa’s dress. They worked the old primitive spinning wheels and handlooms under an old weaver called Anthony Thomas.
By the 1850’s the enterprise was so successful, a factory was built and was powered by the Mahon river. Woollen blankets were manufactured and the blankets won a medal in the Great Exhibition in Dublin in 1853.
In March 1859, Lord & Lady Waterford visited the woollen factory in Kilmacthomas and promised to update all the equipment there.
Lord Henry Beresford stated as he left “We will have it done this day three months”. The following day, he was killed from a fall from his horse at Dowlan Hill in South Kilkenny. The factory remained in operation after Lord Beresford’s untimely demise and Lady Louisa returned to England and continued her philanthropy work, helping the tenants on her estate in Northumberland by building a school and she founded a Temperance society.
A newspaper report of 1910 stated, the 6th Marquess of Waterford, another Lord Henry, “is giving the woollen factory a good overhaul and installing new machinery. The factory produces woollen blankets and cloth. The weavers are paid 1 shilling per day from 6.30 am to 6.00 pm.”
By 1925, the Beresford family sold the property to a Mr Stephenson, who closed the mills and transferred the machinery to the Ardfinnan Woollen Mills.
The factory building was taken over by Flahavans Porridge who operated it as a grain store and drying facility. They enlarged it in 1959 under Mahon & McPhilips of Kilkenny. During harvest time it was the scene of great excitement with tractors lined up, drawing in corn to the factory. Flavahan’s ceased using the building in 1999, there new modern factory can be seen from the Kilmacthomas viaduct and the smell of oats lingers in the air.
The building and the viaduct are of importance as a reminder of the industrial legacy in Waterford and of Ireland’s industrial revolution past and the memory of the men, women and children who worked on the railway lines, in the factories, mills and copper mines throughout the country.
Text source: Local information board in Kilmacthomas Irish Spinner lady: Photochrom archives http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002717414/ Lord Waterford the 3rd Portrait - By Robert Thorburn (1818-1885) -  The Amica Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=216278 Lady Louisa sketch from the book - The story of two noble lives : being memorials of Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford by the Author, Hare, Augustus J. C. (Augustus John Cuthbert), 1834-1903 - Published 1893 - https://archive.org/stream/storyoftwonoblel01hareuoft#page/362/mode/2up Background information on Lady Louisa Beresford https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Beresford,_Marchioness_of_Waterford Lady weaving on loom: British Library Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/i5dXNy Henry Beresford Portrait: By Robert Thorburn (1818-1885) -  The Amica Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=216278 Background Info: Viaduct: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA®no=22805032 Background Info: Woollen Mills: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA®no=22805046 Background Info: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/ireland-s-industrial-heritage-the-past-you-might-not-know-we-had-1.2324451 All other images and text: melcoo.com