Wednesday 20 March 2019

200 years of the wonderful village defined by water

Brothers Noel, Larry, Seán, Teddy, Joe and Francis Whelan in Saltmills. (Photo Liam Ryan)
Brothers Noel, Larry, Seán, Teddy, Joe and Francis Whelan in Saltmills. (Photo Liam Ryan)
Saltmills characters; Japa Molloy, Eugene Nolan, Tom Crumpton and John Molloy (Photo Liam Ryan)

David Looby

Saltmills village was built 200 years ago in 1815, followed shortly afterwards, in 1817, with the construction of the bridge, while St Mary's Church was built in 1819.

Called after two Iron Age mills driven by sea water called the salt mills which operated in the area, the village is always worth visiting.

The scenic bridge no longer overlooks waters negotiated by a flotilla of schooners, gravel boats and ketches navigating the channels from the Bar of Bannow to the quay at St Kearns. The small business which added life and vigour to the village have all ceased to trade with the exception of Vine Cottage.

The Colclough family of Tintern were instrumental in the building of the village. A historian of the era recorded how the village had 29 houses all neatly whitewashed and several of them painted and ornamented in front with small gardens. The female inhabitants were most involved in straw plaiting and bonnet making, while the men were fishermen.

The Colclough's would fund the erection of roofs if the walls and gables of a house were built by the locals. Two plaques, one on Saltmills bridge dated 1817 and another placed in the village in 1815, refer to Tintern Bridge and this has led some to speculate that the intention was to name the village Tintern Bridge. Bishop James Caulfield (1732-1814) is the most famous resident of the area which would become known as Saltmills. His reply refuting the allegations made against him by Richard Musgrave regarding clerical involvement in the 1798 rebellion is an important document in the history of the rebellion.

A school was built in the village in 1839. This building is known today at the Colclough Memorial Hall. The present building was closed in 1904 due to a lack of funding. Down through the years various classes like woodwork, flower arranging, art, butter making, Irish speaking, etc took place here. Morning mass was celebrated in the hall during the renovation of St Aidan's Church, Poulfur, in the 1970s, the On the Hook magazine recalls.

The ICA initiated the renovation of Colclough Hall in 1983 and around this time The Colclough Trust was founded.

The name Caulfield has been synonymous with the village for generations. Sam Caulfield was one of the village's characters and his house features prominently in a photograph by William Cavanagh. Among the landmarks in Saltmills was Evan's shop which was fondly known as the GAA shop.

Possibly the oldest house in Saltmills today is the residence of Pat and Terry Hogan. It was known as Langley's Cottage. The Langleys lived had a coal yard out towards the bay near the water's edge from Saltmills bridge.

New Ross Standard