Bessbrook Mill

The first power flax-spinning mill in Ireland was in Bessbrook which subsequently became a substantial town with an estimated population in 1887 of 3,500.

To facilitate it the lake at nearby Camlough was enlarged (a fact already alluded to) and its water used to regulate the stream that supplied power to drive the mills for grinding corn, scutching flax and bleaching linens.

By the mid nineteenth century it was only in a few locations that the old irregular cluster of farm dwellings known as clachans, survive. Instead bogs had been drained, mountain slopes brought into cultivation and farmhouses built down laneways or sited at intervals along the new, straight main roads.

The clachans (e.g. at Clontygora, Cornamuchlagh, Ballynamadda, Lislea and Pollynagrasta) may have represented elements of the Pre-Plantation settlement pattern and in general they were located alongside the older roads which followed spring lines along the lower hill slopes: here farming communities could have benefited from rough pasture on the hills and cultivated land in the valley bottoms.

In contrast, the large houses of the landlords set within wooded estates, parklands and gardens, represented the new features of the 19th century landscape. Examples are numerous but in our area we might name Heath Hall in Ballymacdermott townland, Killeavy Castle and Halls’ Narrow Water Castle.


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