Prior to 1800 there were several waterpowered mills in Dublin 8. Overlooking the River Camac is the Kilmainham Mill complex, which once formed part of the lands of Kilmainham Castle.
The complex appears to be the last remaining largely unaltered early nineteenth century flour mill in the city and last fulling (textile) mill in Ireland. In former years it would have been a hive of activity with merchants buying cloths from silks to tweeds.
The protected structure also consists of an infilled mill-race (stream to power the mill). It once served as a flour mill prior to conversion for textile production at the turn of the century. It ceased all industrial use in 2000 and since then has remained unoccupied falling into extreme disrepair.
It went through various owners with one obtaining planning permission for an apartment complex. Following the property crash, it was taken over by the National Asset Management Agency more commonly known as NAMA.
After much interest in the mill, Dublin City Council stepped in to purchase the site in late 2018. “It was the right thing to do. Although we didn’t have a full clear plan about its future, it’s a testament to the ethos of doing the right thing when it’s the right thing to do” says Darragh Cunningham, the project manager for Kilmainham Mill working with Dublin City Council.
A Steering Group within the Council has been set up to oversee the conservation redevelopment project. The vision is to open the mill to the public creating a cultural hub and amenity in the Kilmainham area. “We would envisage that there would be synergies with Kilmainham Gaol, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Richmond Barracks and the Phoenix Park. It is one of the most exciting projects at the moment. I am lucky to have landed on my feet with it” says Darragh.
“We want to make sure that anyone who has a passion for the mill and area has a say in it.”
Embarking on a consultation process, “We want to make sure that anyone who has a passion for the mill and area has a say in it. This will help see the use of the mill take shape according to gaps in market and what is feasible along with desires of relevant stakeholders” says Darragh. He credits the ‘Save Kilmainham Mill Group’ for highlighting the plight of the mill.
Numerous problems have been inherited. Currently it is unsafe and has issues with Japanese knotweed and buddleia penetrating the structure. Foliage had to be cleared and basic emergency stabilisation undertaken to include propping the floors and fixing roofs.
The work involves a multi-disciplinary design team to include architects, landscape architects, engineers, industrial heritage engineers and quantity surveyors along with ecologists who will be conducting bat surveys.
This article taken from First Post, Dublin City Council’s inhouse newsletter, 12th February 2020. Text and photo by Lesley Cowper.