Caledon’s unique archaeological treasures to be resurrected

Beam Engine set for restoration on Mill Street, Caledon INTT0512-156JS
Beam Engine set for restoration on Mill Street, Caledon INTT0512-156JS

RESTORATION work has begun to save Caledon’s original archaeological treasures, including a housed beam engine, the only one still in existence in the British Isles.

Large sums of government and private money is being poured into the village to restore parts of the Caledon Estate and relics of the village’s once thriving woolen industry.

A team of architects and specialist builders have already begun work on restoring the mill’s beam house, a type of steam engine where a pivoted overhead beam is used to supplement the flow for a waterwheel mill.

A total of £220,000 in funding has been secured to finance the first phase of the restoration project. It is hoped that the building will be restored to a fully operational state, and become a tourist attraction for the area.

William Beattie of Caledon Regeneration Partnership said he believed the beam engine is unique in the British Isles.

“There are only about eight beam engines in Ireland, and this one is the only one which has a housed engine, making it a very important piece of industrial archaeology”, he said.

“This is the only relic remaining of Caledon’s once famous mill industry, which produced quality woolen garments until the 1930s.

“The mill, which was built in the early 1800s, was demolished in 1985. During the summer, wood and coal was used to power the beam engine, when the water-flow was not strong enough to move the wheel.

“The hope is to get the engine functioning again, and to create a viable tourism attraction which will also faithfully record the history of the village.”

In addition, a Grade B listed property, a former workers’ building on the Caledon Estate, which has lain derelict for years, has received funding worth £30,000 under the Historic Buildings Grant-Aid Scheme.

The funding will support extensive repair and maintenance work.

The twin dwellings were added to the Built Heritage at Risk in Northern Ireland (BHARNI) register in 2003 and are one of over 100 saved since NIEA introduced a 10 year plan to save 100 buildings in 2006.

Caledon estate was bought from the seventh Earl of Cork for £94,400 in 1776 by James Alexander (later first Earl of Caledon), an East India Company Nabob. The Earls of Cork and Orrery had only acquired the estate by marriage from the Hamilton family in 1738, but during the forty years of ownership, they had made it into a by-word for fashionable landscape design, complete with a lodge decorated with statues and Latin epigrams, a hermitage and a bone house.

Welcoming the grant for the Caledon Estate dwellings Environment Minister, Alex Attwood said: “Caledon Town and its surrounding area is one of the most picturesque and heritage rich areas in Northern Ireland. This grant aid from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s grant scheme has allowed this important part of the area’s architectural heritage to be successfully restored and retained.

“We owe it to future generations to ensure that listed buildings such as this, of which there are almost 8,500 in Northern Ireland, are protected and restored.”

Pointing out the importance of the grant scheme to maintaining our architectural heritage, the Minister added: “The historic buildings grant-aid scheme goes a long way towards ensuring a sustainable future for much of our built heritage and I have sought to secure more money to his fund. I have been very pleased to announce over the last week that the cap on support for new applications which was set at £50,000 last year has now been raised threefold to £150,000.”

As part of the Programme for Government, DOE is committed to ‘protecting and enhancing our environment and natural resources’.