Craanford is a small village in north County Wexford situated midway between the market town of Gorey and Carnew in Co. Wicklow. It is closely associated with the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The village features an early 17th century corn mill which has been restored.
The Lyons family has lovingly restored this 17th Century water mill to full working order and added an adjoining with many interesting associated features. Enjoy a very personal guide by the proprietors who portray a great sense of pride in the work they have achieved.
The flagstone floors have been worn by 200 years of shuffling feet, the stairs creek in mild complaint and on one side of the room, sacks of freshly ground meal slouch against each other. Outside the mill wheel waits for the surge of water from the mill pond. A cead mile failte awaits you from your host Mick & Anna Lyons. Take a break and savor their homemade produce in the Kiln Loft Café overhead. Craanford Mills are situated in the picturesque village of Craanford, signposted on the main Rosslare – Dublin (N11) road at near-by Camolin village. Telephone+353 (0)53 942 8124
History of Craanford
Craanford is a most remarkable and congenial spot. With its thatched housing and immaculate gardens, the village has the air of a place which has been groomed to within an inch of its life, the very model of a tidy town.
If only the county council could find the money in its budget to bring the road up to the standard of neatness displayed by everyone from private holders to the GAA club, then everything really would be tickety-boo in Craanford.
The sign at the side of this patched and uneven carriageway beckons passers-by to come and explore a ‘restored 17th century mill and tea rooms’. Here is one of the less grandiose stops along the recently launched Wexford Heritage Trail.
While it may not have the high-tech pulling power of a Wells House or the monastic splendour of a Tintern Abbey, Lyons’s mill is an authentic piece of heritage, both charming and stimulating.
Your correspondent blundered in last Wednesday in the early afternoon through the open door to find a row of people standing with their backs to the entrance. With most of the old room in darkness, the visitors were silhouetted against the brightness coming from the illuminated mill workings, like the audience at a play. Yet, there was no drama unfolding, just the repetitive rumbling of huge cogs, resembling the innards of some giant old watch.
In an era when the watches function with microchips and the flour is ground in massive facilities generally off limits to the general population, this was an opportunity to reach back in time. So we all stood and we watched while we absorbed the strangely comforting rumbling and clanking of the ancient technology, like worshippers come to an altar to receive communion.
Ancient technology? Not so very ancient, as our guide Michael Lyons made clear when eventually broke the spell of companionable hypnosis. A mere 88 years old, he was here in 1948 when the business churned out its last sackful of wholegrain from locally grown corn. And, with its renewable energy source, the water-powered mill is very much in keeping with modern ecological thinking.
The pity is that the wheel on the mill in Craanford turns to educate and inspire the visitors, not to produce the flour and the animal feed which it ground out from early in the 17th century all the way through until mid-way through the 20th.
Up to date hygiene regulations demand that any food plant must be built from scratch, while Michael’s plan was to preserve not to demolish this little gem of a place.
‘I thought he was crazy,’ admits wife Anna, who now presides over the kettle in the tea rooms, where the scones and jam are second to none.
She has been buttering the sandwiches here since 1994 when the restoration was complete and the first of the tourists began to arrive to consider how hefty mill stones do their work and to see great wheel turning at the back of the building.
Retired farmer Michael points out that the mill was once just as much a social centre as the well or the school or the church in a small community.
In grain growing territory such as North Wexford, a mill every few miles was the norm, so that farmers did not have too far to bring their harvest by horse and cart. The demise of his business in the 1940s occurred as haulage became increasingly mechanised.
Michael recalls that there were rival mills at Boley near Camolin, in Camolin itself and at the appropriately named Millquarter in Monaseed. The mill at Askamore was even older than his in Craanford. He well remembers a time when all of them were working.
‘There is no place more interesting than a mill,’ he insists. In a flush of theatricality, he styles himself ‘The Mad Miller’ though it is impossible to imagine anyone saner than Michael Lyons whose sense of wonder at the workings of man and nature remain undimmed into his octogenarian years.
He spins his mild-voiced yarns for school groups, for historical societies and for those tourists lucky enough to find their curiosities stimulated by the sign in Camolin pointing to the mill and take a diversion off the N11. Throughout the sunny summer of 2013, they have come in encouraging numbers.
They share his delight that back in 1610, someone’s inspired intuition led to the digging of a channel diverting water from the River Lask through his yard to turn the big wheel. The tattered remnants of that original wheel are still on the premises but the work is now carried out by a faithful replica made in Carnew. It now carries out a job which was being done on this spot when Oliver Cromwell rode past in a hurry 360 plus years ago.
by David Medcalf