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Cookstown History Wellbrook

Wellbrook Beetling Mill
Photograph & comment by Linda Bailey
This is a National Trust Property. A Beetling Mill was used in the final stages of Linen Production. Water powered the hammers which gave the linen its characteristic finish.

Transcribed by Teena from the Mid Ulster Mail

So far as can be definitely ascertained, Wellbrook was the premier bleach works in this part of the country. Gill, in his “Rise of the Irish Linen Industry” says. that there is evidence that a number of bleach works were in existence in 1725 when the first beetling mill was set up by Hamilton MAXWELL, who was already a bleacher and got a government grant for the salary of a dutch instructor for two years. The Huguenots brought bleachers with them and this development of the linen industry naturally spread from their settlement at Lisburn.

Prior to this, weavers had to bleach their own webs and bleaching could be done only in the spring and summer, so that the weavers, generally in poor circumstances, had to wait for months before they could market the finished article. As they could not afford to do so, they sold the goods unbleached, as brown linen and this led to a class of middlemen, known as “drapers”, who had capital and bought the brown linen from the weavers and bleached it on their own ens, which were equipped with boiling plant, drying houses and so forth. The linen was also beetled by water-power, which took the place of the old laborious process of hammering the cloth with wooden mallets by hand. The essentials for such an industry, therefore were good water in which the cloth would be boiled and washed; a good supply of fuel, convenient water-power so that the beetling could be done continuously; a. stretch of level land on which cloth could be spread to bleach in the sun, and the existence in the neighbourhood of a considerable number of weavers, who would make the cloth from yarn supplied by the draper, or the vicinity of a good linen market where the brown linen could be bought.

Such conditions existed, in an ideal way, at the place known as Wellbrook, situated about 3½ miles west of Cookstown. The burn from the great springs at Montober (the hill of the springs ) flowed close by, with its exceptionally main source of the Ballinderry, fell a considerable height at the place; turf bogs were plentiful in the neighbourhood; and most cotters spun yarn and wove linen and there were good markets at Cookstown, Stewartstown and Moneymore. It is, therefore, not surprising that this should have been the site of the first bleach mill in our district.

Wellbrook dates to the year 1764, as a stone on one of the older buildings testifies, though this is not necessary by way of proof because the title deeds disclose the full information and the entries in the Register of deeds are particularly ample. The owner of what we know as the Orritor Estate, at that time, was the Earl of Anglesea. His eldest son had the title of Viscount Valentia, and the minor title was Baron Mountnorris, the family name being ANNESLEY and the estate was then known as Manor Annesley. This name is still familiar as the name of another estate owned by the same family near Washing Bay on Lough Neagh; the titles were derived from various other estates, acquired at different times. The present name of Orritor is a modification, or corruption, of the old name Araghter and was given to the lands where purchased in 1782, by the first Earl of Castlestewart.

The Earl of Anglesea was non-resident and like most of the great landowners, he simply farmed out the estate, letting it on lease to a middleman for a term of years. This fact doubtless accounts for the non-existence of the bleaching industry at Wellbrook at an earlier date, because the lessee had no power to give a title for longer than his own lease, generally 31 years and no person was going to build a mill and lay out and equip a green, without security of tenure. This difficulty was got over however, by an Act of Parliament which received the royal assent on 7th May 1764 (3rd George III chap 34) one clause of which enacted that limited owners (such as the lessee of the Orritor estate) could give a good title to lands, not exceeding 15 acres, for the purpose of a bleach green, with the provision that at least £10 per acre be expended for that purpose within three years.

At this time the lessee of the estate was Alderman Hans BAILLIE, of Abbey Street, Dublin, a Co. Down man, of Scotch extraction, who was related to the ANNESLEY family, his mother being the daughter of Francis ANNESLEY, of Castlewellan, younger son of the first Earl of Anglesea. In 1745, Hans BAILLIE leased the estate for 41 years, at a yearly rent of £140, the previous lessees, or “farmers” of the lands being the Rev. John RICHARDSON and Rev. Thomas MORRIS, two local rectors. It was, we think, about this time that the great immigration took place of Scotch Presbyterians who, on the Orritor estate settled on the moorland and made the farmsteads which exist today, closely populating what had been rough grazing land and adding to the wealth of the country. BAILLIE probably foresaw the effect of this, at any rate, two years after he got his lease for 41 years he re-opened negotiations and advancing the rent from £140 to £156 a year, he got a fresh lease for lives, renewable forever, thus securing to himself and his heirs, all the increment in the value of the land which he anticipated. That this extra £16 a year was a good investment is proved by the result; thirty-five years later the trustee’s for the Earl of Castlestewart purchased the estate and Viscount Valentia, the owner in fee, got £3,677 14s for his interest, while the heirs of Hans BAILLIE, then deceased, sold their lease, which had cost nothing but the extra rent of £16 a year, for no less than £16,600.

To return to 1764, the Act of that year was a comprehensive code of laws relating to the Linen industry, dealing with a wide range of subjects, with penalties ranging from death for forcible entry into a house to injure cloth or yarn, to 5s. for bleaching yarn with soapers dregs, or pigeons dung. The Act also confirmed the system of sealing webs, which had never been put in force previously, though laws were passed authorizing it. The introduction of the Bill was signalized by rioting by weavers, particularly in Lisburn district and a general “rising” in 1762, but like recent legislation, it was found that what was feared was not intended and could not follow the passing of the Bill at all. It says something, however, for their faith in the future that two gentlemen, immediately on the passing of the Act, decided to spend money on developing the natural resources of the place afterwards named Wellbrook.

These two gentlemen were the sons of Henry FAULKNER, Samuel FAULKNER of Stephen’s Green, Dublin and Hugh FAULKNER, described as a linen draper residing in Gortalowry. They were men of considerable means and good social standing. George had property at Port Faulkner, Co. Wicklow and Castletown Co. Carlow and served as High sheriff in both counties in 1787 and 1788. Hugh FAULKNER had also property in Co. Carlow; he was married to a daughter of Rev. Henry COLE, rector of Derryloran, son of John COLE M.P. of Florence Court, who was ancestor to the Earls of Enniskillen. Rev. Henry COLE’S wife was sister of Sir Arthur BROOKE Bart, a leading county family in Fermanagh. Miss COLE it may be noted, married Hugh FAULKNER in the year following her father’s death, and apparently they lived in Gortalowry and possessed some property there, as it is mentioned in probate of his father’s will. It would, of course, be leasehold only, as the only freeholder was Mr. STEWART of Killymoon. Hugh FAULKNER appears in the rental of 1786 for a holding with £1 6s 3d rent, while “Samuel FAULKNER Esq.” paid £3 12s 10d rent. The title of “Esq.” in this rental indicates his social position as it was given to only a few, Charles RICHARDSON Esq., of Ballymena, was one, while “Mr.”was prefixed to the names of persons such as Wm. MAGILL, Wm. CLUFF and John COOKE, the rest being given their legal names only.

These two brothers then took a lease renewable for ever, from Hans BAILIE, under the Act of 1764. Samuel was evidently the more important of the two, for on the house at Wellbrook, on which the date of 1764 appears, his initials “S.F.” also appear. In the lease he is described as a gentleman, while Hugh is a “linen draper” of Gortalowry. The land leased was 10 acres, Irish plantation measure, and described as ‘Strafleming’, being part of the lands of Derrinleagh in the Manor of Araghter or Manor Annesley The name Strafleming is puzzling, as it is not met elsewhere in connection with these lands, being replaced by the present name Wellbrook. “Stra,” however, means a river holm, which accurately describes the bleach green there, the river running round most of it.

The site is further defined as “lying on the side of the great river called Kildress River,” and the lease gave liberty “to erect a weir on said river and cut the Mill-race to carry water from it to the mills, and a bleach green, to be erected on the premises, with liberty to erect a weir on the brook running from the spring called Muntober <sic>Well, and cut a mill race from the same to carry off the whole water from said brook.” The burn from Montober <sic> springs apparently took a different course before this, as on the O.S. Map of 1833 a “new water course” is shown towards what had been the bleach mill.

The perpetuity lease also included 5 acres in Tamlagh bog and 2 acres in the Downs, as already set out to the lessees by Rev. Hugh STEWART, agent for the lessor, “and now in possession of the lessees.” Liberty was also given to make two roads to the premises, as soon as “the present leases expire”, one from Tamlagh bog through lands now let to Alex. M’KINNEY and the other “from the great road which runs from Orritor to Cookstown through lands of Tammlagh”, on the expiration of the lease to Moses BLACK, of 31 years, of which 14 were expired, or the life of his eldest son, Wm. BLACK, then living. The latter provision shows that Moses BLACK had leased lands in 1734. The rent payable by the FAULKNERS for this land was £9 yearly, with 9s. agents fees, and two hens yearly, or their value, 6d. There was also a fine of £1 2s. 9d. when renewed and when these leases renewable forever, were converted under subsequent Acts, to fee farm grants, the agents fees and the fines were reckoned.

The date of this lease was 14th August 1765, and it was registered on 9th January,1766. The date on the stone referred to is 1764, so that the latter is rather a memorial of the Act under which Wellbrook became possible than a record of ownership, unless we assume that Samuel FAULKNER built the house before he got the perpetuity lease, as may have been the case.

That the FAULKNERS carried out the terms of the lease is, of course, certain, but they did not develop the industry as fully as they thought could be done is shown by the following interesting advertisement which appeared in the Dublin Evening Post from 14th – 31st October 1780, and is preserved in the Library of Trinity College. It will be noted that this gives the date of the erection of Wellbrook House as about 1776. It will also be seen that the purity of Montober water was recognized over a century, before part of it was piped to Cookstown.

Advt. from Dublin Evening Post 1780

The Waterwheel at Wellbrook Beetling Mill, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone by Henry Clark

A Bleech-green to be Let, for such term as may be agreed on at Wellbrooke, in the parish of Kildress and County of Tyrone, in the North of Ireland, capable of finishing 10,000 pieces of linen in one season, with its present machinery, consisting of a double wash-mill, 2 pair of crank-boards, a large boilers, with knives, backs, drying loft and cloth-closets, in one house. Also 2 beetling engines and crisping engine in another house, all in perfect repair and supplied with a considerable redundancy of water, in the driest season.

To this green there is one of the largest springs of pure water in the Kingdom, part of which supplies the head-stocks and a site for erecting another house and machinery with the water brought to it, which, with other opportunities of erecting other wheels in different parts of the green, might be made capable of finishing almost any quantity of linen, as it will readily appear to anyone who views the place that eight waterwheels may be most plentifully supplied with water and though this present year has been the driest season that has been these many years, yet the source of water at this bleech-green is so great that every wheel (if created) of the before mentioned, would have had a redundancy of water and the conveniency is so great, that all the above wheels may be erected at not more than 10 to 12 perches distance, from each other.

There is also an exceeding good dwelling-house on the premises, built within these 4 years, consisting of vaulted cellarage underneath, parlour bedchamber, hall, kitchen, scullery and pantry on the ground floor; dining-room and 3 chambers on the second floor and 2 bed-chambers on the third floor; the whole finished in the very best manner and modern taste, with stove-grates, marble chimney fires etc., etc.

There is 8 plantation acres of turf bog to the premises, so convenient that 20 loads of turf may be drawn in a day with one horse. Also about 28 acres of land, plantation measure, adjoining the green, whereon is a very good dwelling-house for a foreman bleacher.

The whole situated in the heart of a very great manufacturing country, within 2 miles of Cookstown, 5 of Moneymore and 6 of Coagh, 6 of Stewartstown, 10 of Magherafelt and 9 of Dungannon, all established noted cloth markets. There is perhaps no place in the Kingdom where the bleaching business may be carried on so extensively, to a greater degree of perfection, or more to the advantage of the occupier.

N.B. There is a large quantity of turf stacked at the mills, which will be given at first cost to the person that becometh tenant for the premises.

Proposals to be received by Samuel FAULKNER Esq., No. 84 Stephen’s Green Dublin, or by Mr. Hugh FAULKNER on the premises, who will treat for the same. 24th September 1780.