The remnants of a 19th century mill is on the market for €1m
The home in Bantry, Co. Cork is not run-of-the-mill and might just be the perfect family home.
Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30
Dromore Mill, a distinct 19th-century watermill in the district of Bantry, Co Cork, has itself been through the mill, you might say.
Over the past 40-odd years, it's been partly renovated and restored by successive owners, who have managed to turn it into a very unconventional family home.
And in so doing, they've also protected a singular monument to Victorian industry and enterprise in Ireland.
Dromore Mill was originally used to grind baryte, or barium sulphate, a versatile mineral found in great abundance in the west Cork area.
Baryte in those days was used as a white pigment in the production of paint, paper and textiles, and there was hardly a county in Ireland that wasn't mining it and selling it, even if only in a small way.
These days, by contrast, it's used mostly in oil and gas exploration, and it's produced mostly in China.
One of the most significant baryte mines in Ireland in the 19th Century was near the village of Durrus, about nine miles from Dromore Mill along the old Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway.
That mine was abandoned in 1920, and as the baryte industry locally came increasingly to be regarded as uneconomic, Dromore Mill was converted to grind grain for a short period in its lifespan.
Then, during the Second World War, it entered its third incarnation, when it began producing hydroelectric power.
According to the current owner, interior designer Catherine O'Connor, there are locals who still remember the mill providing light for neighbouring houses.
After the 'Emergency', Dromore Mill was once again pressed into service grinding corn, and was still in operation until the 1960s.
In the 1970s it was bought and partly converted by an English carpenter and woodworker, who used the ground floor as a lumber workshop. Then, in the early 2000s, it was bought by the current owners, who lived in New York and used it for some years as a holiday home.
In 2009, the family moved to the mill full-time, and set about restoring it in earnest.
They removed inappropriate alterations, and replaced original features while trying to introduce as much light as possible to what was, after all, an industrial building.
The Victorian exterior has been conserved, while the inside looks as modish and sophisticated as you'd expect from the work of a New York-trained interior designer.
The main house is a three-storey building of some 4,305 square feet.
The ground floor is mostly open-plan and houses a bespoke walnut kitchen and dining room, and a living room with exposed oak ceiling beams and a stone chimneybreast.
Also on the ground floor is a guest bedroom and a bathroom, as well as a boot-room, laundry room and a pantry.
A central open-tread staircase made of steel, glass and reclaimed oak rises from the large hallway to the floor above.
On the first floor is a library or drawing room measuring some 33 feet by 16 feet, with a cathedral ceiling, stone chimneybreast, fitted oak bookshelves and a gallery overlooking the room.
There's also an office on this level with a door to a balcony overlooking the bridge below, and two bathrooms.
The three bedrooms on the first floor are all interconnected by ladders up to an internal bunk balcony.
By this means, the residents can sneak back and forth to each other's rooms, for whatever reasons they choose.
In the case of the current owners, the bedroom's inhabitants are children; for adults there are balcony doors to ensure privacy.
The second floor, built into the eaves, houses two more bedrooms, including the master bedroom, both with en-suite bathrooms.
And there's a glass-panelled gallery den overlooking the library below.
Behind the mill itself is a guest or staff cottage consisting of a garage and sitting room on the ground floor, and a kitchen/dining room with balcony, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a laundry on the floor above.
Needless to say, the mill is beside a river, the Owennashingaun (or River of the Ants), which winds its way through the wooded grounds, under bridges and over waterfalls and salmon leaps.
Unusually for a building of its age, Dromore Mill now has a very respectable C1 energy rating.
There's oil-fired underfloor heating on the ground floor and oil-fired radiators upstairs, and the mill has been fully insulated and double-glazed.
Energy-wise, though, it's capable of doing even better. The metal mill wheel, which is still in place though in disrepair, is a massive eight metres in diameter and a latent source of renewable energy.
O'Connor and her husband arranged feasibility studies and found that, if restored, the wheel would be capable of generating up to 6KW of hydroelectric power.
Dromore is in a remote location, especially since the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway closed in 1961 – it was losing some £56,000 a year – and so, despite intense opposition, the tracks were removed and sold to Nigeria, so there's no prospect of its reopening.)
Nevertheless, it's only about 12 kilometres from Bantry, and less than 75 kilometres from Cork Airport.
The mill, on 3.6 acres, together with the staff cottage on an acre, is on the market for €1.25m.
You can buy the mill on its own, without the cottage, for €1m.
The two houses share the same access, however.
The property is being sold either whole or in two lots by agent Michael H Daniels in Fermoy (025 31023).