During the middle of May, Kentraugh Mill will unlock its doors to the public as part of the annual celebrations for National Mills Weekend, with an open invitation (albeit at your own risk) for everyone to come and see the mill in action.
Organised by the Mills Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, National Mills Weekend continues to grow in popularity, demonstrating continued interest in the practical side of food production and fascination for a largely forgotten part of our industrial heritage.
Kentraugh Mill, near Colby, is owned by Canon John Sheen and his wife Elizabeth who inherited the property from her father, Mr. R. M. Nuttall. Buying the miller’s house in 1965 Mr. Nuttall was more than a little surprised to discover the derelict mill hidden behind the closed doors of what he thought was a garage.
Over the course of the next five years he lovingly restored the three storey building to its former glory and soon became aware that the mill also had an interesting history.
Early records show that the mill, owned by Robert Qualtrough, was functioning as far back as 1506 and likely to have been a working mill for several centuries. It is believed that the mill was largely rebuilt in approximately 1832, or possibly earlier, when the current machinery was installed. Prior to this date everything would have been of wooden construction.
Kentraugh Mill remained with the Qualtrough family until 1904 when the two surviving sisters of William Qualtrough sold the building to another miller, John Woods of Ballabeg. His family, or tenants, continued to work the mill until 1943 when the miller locked the door of the building for the final time and left everything untouched for over twenty years.
Visitors will have an opportunity to take an extensive tour of the mill, learn more about the processes involved and see the machinery in action, before heading across the road to visit the remains of the miller’s store room which later became a temporary meeting place for the Primitive Methodists. Now known as the Chapel Garden it was recorded in 1851 that the chapel had 16 members with 83 children and 11 teachers attending the annual Sunday School Anniversary celebrations.
Older residents of the district recall being sent to the mill as children for oat meal, or barley meal, or to be weighed on the miller’s magnificent scales. But local folklore relates that when the miller was short of workers he would alert drinkers at the nearby Shore Hotel by hanging out a red flannel petticoat from an upstairs bedroom window.
Admission to the mill is free, but donations welcomed for the work of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, a mission society of which Canon Sheen is a council member and long term representative for the Isle of Man. Home-made refreshments will also be available at the miller’s house during the weekend. If you would like further information about visiting, or organising a group tour of Kentraugh Mill, telephone 832406.
Valerie Caine © May 2011 (inc photos)