Ennis Civic Trust Ltd., in conjunction with Clare County Council, has completed the restoration of the landmark mill water wheel at the Mill Road, Ennis at a cost of €110,000.
The wood and iron waterwheel, which is a protected structure and a recorded national monument, is the last remaining component of Ennis Corn Mill (later Whiting Mill) which was constructed on the River Fergus during the 1830s and demolished in 1983.
The completed restoration project means that the wheel can now be safely operated and presented as an active heritage project, with the wheel rotating, with due regard for safety and environmental considerations.
“I would hope that this important heritage project will help create greater public awareness of the heritage of the Clare County Capital and how the Mill was once one of the town’s most significant employers,” said Mayor of Ennis Councillor Pat Daly.
Mayor Daly also acknowledged the cross agency involvement in the restoration project as well as the contribution of Oliver Moylan from Ennis who through Ennis Civic Trust Ltd was instrumental in retaining the original water wheel in Ennis.
“This project reflects the ongoing commitment of Ennis Civic Trust Ltd. l to the development and preservation of the heritage of the town of Ennis and to work in partnership with other groups such as the Clare County Council. One of the main purposes of the Trust is to initiate proposals for the improvement, protection and development of features of historic or public interest,” stated Mr. Gerard Dollard, Director of Services and Chair of Ennis Civic Trust Ltd.
Mr. Dollard outlined that the area around the former Mill site will shortly undergo further regeneration.
“The site was recently developed as an amenity area adjacent to Phase One of the West Clare Greenway. Close to the site of the restored Water Wheel will be the permanent site for the show garden from the Ennis Garden Festival 2016. This designer show garden will also incorporate bike stands and picnic tables and will be a significant enhancement to this location. Once installed, the garden will be maintained by the Council’s Gardening Section and will provide a legacy to the Town of Ennis to be enjoyed by all,” said Mr. Dollard.
The restoration of the Water Wheel was carried out by local contractors, Lenihan’s (Clonloum) Ltd of O’Callaghans Mills.
Works undertaken include the realignment and treatment of the existing wheel frames, the installation of treated larch paddles and fitted oak starts, the refurbishment and reinstallation of the original mechanical raising system, the installation of an exact replica of the Irish Oak and Elm sluice gate, the construction of a new operator access deck, and the installation of locally produced step ladders and handrails.
As the River Fergus within the vicinity of the old Mill Wheel is designated as part of the Lower River Shannon Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the work was undertaken in consultation with the National Parks & Wildlife Service, Fisheries Ireland and Environmental Consultants (Kerry Ecological Services). The project team also included Construction Safety Consultants (Harewood Malone O’Regan), and conservation experts Congella McGuire (Clare Heritage Officer, Risteard Uacroinin (Clare Heritage Officer), Pat Stephens (Clare/Limerick Agency).