Welcome to Skerries Mills
Skerries Mills is a truly unique historical site, as it’s the only location in Europe that boasts two windmills, a watermill and bakery. The oldest mill on the current site
dates back to c1460. Milling started on this site around the 12th century.
1. You start your tour in what was the last part of Skerries Mills to be operational the “Old Mill Bakery” this room was where the bread and cake ovens were located.
There were originally four ovens in this room. You can imagine how hot this room was to work in. The ovens were heated by a fire that was keep burning night and day to keep the baking ovens hot.
The large oven called a Scotch oven because or where it was made was used for bread and could hold up to 300 loaves per bake. The smaller oven made in Dublin was mainly used for Cakes and Bins.
The video playing shows the bakery in action and was filmed by a visitor around 1950.
The bread delivery cart is one of two that that are still in existence the other one is stored in the National Museum of Ireland. The cart was used for local deliveries up until the 1960’s and could hold approximately 300 loaves of bread and a quantity of cakes and buns in the drawer underneath. Please open the back to look inside.
2. This room also part of the bakery which was added in 1850 contained a well for water and the table you see was used to need the bread and stamp it with SM before baking. There are a series of early weighing scales on display that show the evolution of the industrial age in that from early balance scales they invented scales for specific purposes with ones for vegetables, confectionary meat and general shop types.
3. This room last in the bakery section contains a Lady’s cart which belonged to Mrs Healy the wife of one of the owners of Skerries Mills the cart date back to 1906 and was imported from Scotland for her. The cart has survived because of a tragedy of one of their children dying as a result of a trip in the cart. After the child’s death the cart was put in storage and never used again.
Beside the door to the mill proper you will find two examples of early milling stones one is 1500 years old and the other 3000 years old and are on loan from the National Museum of Ireland these are call Quern stones Please read the signs for more information.
4. You have now entered the mill proper, this extension to the original mill was added around 1850 And this room was called the grain reception. The local farmers would de- liver grain by horse and cart into the courtyard and it was brought in to this room to be checked for quality, weighed and sent upstairs by means of a sack hoist to various storage rooms above.
Here you will find replica milling (quern) stones which you can try to mill with yourself. The milling operation in Skerries Mills is exactly the same as the rotary stone except that it is on a large scale and used wind or water power instead of humans.
5. This is the miller’s office from where the miller who was responsible for the operations in the mill could pay the farmers for their grain and keep watch on the waterwheel and milling process. Please look at the account books and note the excellent hand writing if you had an education, you had a job in those days. On the wall is an early health and safe- ty sign for electric shock which makes interesting reading today.
6. The engine room houses a 1928 single cylinder Blackstone diesel engine used to turn machine in the Threshing Barn outside at the water wheel. The batteries you see where used to give electric light in the building before mains electricity came to the town of Skerries. Please watch the video presentation to see how the engine was started.
7. Pit Wheel room. Power from the exterior waterwheel enters the mill in this area. The pit wheel, so called because it is half-hidden in a pit in the floor, is connected to the waterwheel by a horizontal metal shaft. As the waterwheel turns, power is transmitted through gearing to a vertical shaft via the small wheel known as a wallower. This vertical shaft reaches to the ceiling of the building and powers the mill machinery: millstones, elevators, shakers, blowers, pulleys and sack hoists. The beech cogs of the great spur wheel mesh with the stone nuts to transmit power to the three pairs of stones located on the floor above.
Meal comes down through the mill by gravity via chutes. The three wooden elevators, which contain metal buckets fastened to canvas belts, transport the meal up through the mill from one stage of production to another. The Primary Valuation Books of the mid- 1840’s described three pairs of elevators in Skerries Watermill, one 31feet (c.9.5m) and two 23 feet (c.7m) in height.
8. Stone Floor. Millstones are used in pairs, measure between 3.5-5 feet in diameter, (c. 1
-1.50m) weigh up to 1½ tons. Best quality stone came from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre in the Paris Basin. Known as French Burr, the stone is a fresh-water quartz renowned for its hard surface and porosity and used for grinding flour and oats. Stones from the Peak district of Derbyshire in England were known as Peak Stones. There is one set of Peak
stones in Skerries Watermill (centre) used for shelling or bruising oats, and two French Burr stones (left and right) for grinding oats and wheat. The grinding surfaces of both runner stone (above) and bed stone (below) are dressed or shaped to facilitate the grinding process. During the grinding process, the surfaces of the runner- and bed-stones do not come in contact, as this would damage the stones.
The distance between the stones can also be altered to suit the milling process in hand. The process of adjusting the clearance between the grinding surfaces of the stones is called tentering.
The shelling stones (centre) and the grinding stones (left) work simultaneously and in
conjunction with one another in the manufacture of oatmeal products.
The grain is fed to the shelling stones from a hopper on the top floor of the mill. The
meal is then transported by a second elevator to the machine floor for refinement and separation into the finished products: oatmeal flour and pinhead oatmeal. The coarse oatmeal is returned to the stones to be reground.
Wheat is fed through a hopper on the top floor of the mill and falls directly into the French Burr stones (right). The wholemeal flour collected below the stones is moved by elevator to the machine floor where it is refined in a shaker before returning to the stone floor for bagging.
Please proceed outside and to the left for the Mill Race, Water Wheel and Threshing Barn.
9. Mill Race & Tail Race: Water from the mill-pond flows along a channel called the mill- race or head-race before reaching the wooden flume above the waterwheel. The flow of water is controlled by sluice gates at either end of the mill-race. Great ingenuity was dis- played by millwrights in constructing the watercourse to bring the water to the wheel.
Excess water from the mill race flows over the top of the sluice gate to the side thus
controlling the amount of water in the mill-race. If repairs need to be carried out on
the waterwheel this gate can be opened and all the water in the mill-race diverted into the tail-race where it then rejoins the brook in the reed beds.
10. Waterpower has been used to manufacture food, drain land and drive machinery for some two thousand years. The first watermills were driven by horizontal wheels and probably worked only one pair of grinding stones. The major development in
water-powered milling came in the first century A.D. with the introduction of the vertical waterwheel. The current Skerries waterwheel is a pitch back powered by a head of water, controlled by a sluice-gates. As the water falls from the wooden trough or
flume, it strikes the wheel just before its highest point, resulting in an anti-clockwise rotation of the waterwheel and of the machinery and grinding stones within the mill.
11. This Threshing Barn is a reconstruction of a type that was to be found on large farms or estates around the end of the 19th century. The machinery is driven by the diesel oil engine located inside the mill.
The Threshing mill by J Scott of Belfast on the left which dates back to circa 1900 required a team of people to operate it,
In the middle is a Bentall Straw Cutter this machine was used to cut Straw or Chaff
which was used to provide feed and bedding of animals.
On the right is a horse driven threshing machine which was probably used to thresh hay only as it is not fitted with sieves or shakers it is connected to the horse mill at the side of the barn.
12. Sample Crops: The full cycle of grain production: sowing, growing, harvesting, threshing, drying, milling and baking can be carried out in Skerries Mills. Wheat, oats and barley are being grown in these cereal demonstration plots. We host a vintage harvest day in September each year where we use vintage methods to harvest the grain.
13. The Skerries windmills are both ‘tower-mills’ in which the cap alone, and not the whole structure, is turned to the wind. The small four-sail mill is one of the earliest forms of windmill and uses simple canvas sails. The thatched wooden cap rests on hardwood bearings and is turned to the wind from inside the mill by a hand-winch. The sails are mounted on a wooden beam known as a windshaft, which rests on a stone bearing in the roof space. When the wind blows and the sails turn, the break wheel mounted on the windshaft engages with a lantern pinion – an early type of gear wheel – located at the top of the central vertical shaft. Power is transmitted downwards via the central shaft to a single pair of grinding stones. Grain is carried manually to the top of the mill.
The small windmill is built on the site of a prehistoric fort, the highest point in the town. The mill is 40 feet (c.12.2m) high with a diameter of sail of 53 feet 4inches (c.16m). There is a difference in height of 10 feet (c.3m) between the ground levels of the two windmills. This wind- mill dates back to 1460 and was built by the Augustin Monks of the Priory of Holmpatrick.
Descendants of St. Patrick they had left the monastery on St Patrick’s Island which lies just off shore and can be seen from outside the Five Sail Windmill due to raids by Vikings and founded a monastic settlement on these lands around 1223 . The names Holm and Skerries are both Viking words meaning place and rocky shore. In 1538, at the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry V111, a watermill valued at 40 shillings was listed among the possessions of the
Canons Regular of St. Augustine at the Priory of Holmpatrick.
14. The Great Windmill of Skerries. The late 18th and early 19th century was the great age of
tower mills. The tower of the Skerries five-sail windmill is 49 feet (c.15m) high, and the diameter of sail, 66 feet (c.20m). Multi-sailed mills are unusual but not uncommon. Five-, six- and eight-sailed mills increased the area of the sails and thus the efficiency of the mill. Five sails were very efficient, although the loss of one sweep (sail) could stop the mill.
The Skerries five-sail windmill was built as a four-sail mill but following a fire c.1844, was transformed into the then popular five-sail version. The simple canvas sails of earlier years
were replaced by spring sails, a series of shutters, invented by the Scottish millwright Andrew Meikle. The caps of this mill is turned to the wind by using a tail-pole. There are two pairs of grinding stones in the five-sail mill, and a sack- hoist for transporting grain to the top floor.
Other machinery includes sieves, shakers and blowers.
15. Local Heritage, This room depicts working from home for piece work usually for a local business. The main businesses in the area were a hosiery company in balbriggan and a shirt company in Skerries. Also in this room is the complete heritage train of Skerries.
16. The machinery on this floor, used to refine the grain, is driven by belts and pulleys
connected to a central shaft powered by the waterwheel.
The blower (left) which is a rotary fan, receives the oats after their passage through the shelling stones and literally blows the husks or chaff away from the whole kernels.
The chute on the right feeds wheat from a hopper on the top floor into the French Burr stones below. Once ground, the flour passes in the elevator up to this floor and is refined in the second shaker (right). The wholemeal flour then drops through a chute to the stone floor where it is bagged. This large wooden winnowing machine, which is still in working order, is a hand- operated process for separating the chaff from the kernels of the grain. Thomas Corbett’s Improved Patent “Eclipse” is inscribed on the side of the machine, as are various awards won by the model, which date it to c.1910. This winnower was manufactured at Perseverance Iron- works, Shrewsbury, Great Britain, and is part of the original Skerries Mills machinery.
17. Seed Dressing the final part of the milling, this is where we get the seed for next year’s crop. Because Ireland has only one main growing season seed has to be prepared for storage over the long winter months. To do this we must clean the seed of any unwanted particles
that may cause it to deteriorate before it can be sown next year. The machine here is call
Bobby’s Seed Dresser for Power and was manufactured in 1906 in England. Grain it placed in the top of the machine and through a series of sieves and shakers it is cleaned of any un- wanted material. Thus “dressing” the seed for storage. The machine is made of wood any cast iron and the springs are made of ash wood so they could be easily replaced.
Also on display is a seed fiddle this was used to spread seed and was more efficient and accurate that tossing it by hand.
18. This room is dedicated to local history and the people involved in the 1916 rising and 1919 to 1921 war of independence. Of note in the one of the display cases are medals for James Peters married to Elizabeth Ellis from Skerries who’s brothers worked for Skerries Mills. The other case contains a ships brinicle from the RMS Tayleur which sank locally. The tragedy of the sinking is on the panel above it.
This end the tour and brings you to the gift shop and the exit.
Thank you for visiting Skerries Mills