The Cost of Building Blarney

In September of 1776, Arthur Young visited S.J. Jeffery’s, Esq; at Blarney Castle. Of whose great works in building a town at Blarney, I cannot give so particular an account as I wish to do; for I got there just as he and his family were on the point of setting out for France. I did not however let slip the time I had for making some enquiries, and found that in 1765, when Mr. Jeffery’s began to build this town, it consisted only of two or three mud cabins; there are now 90 houses. He first established the linen manufactory, building a bleach-house and houses for the weavers, and letting them to manufacturers from Cork, who have been so successful in their works as to find it necessary to have larger and more numerous edifices, such as a large stamping mill for printing linens and cottons, to which is annexed another bleach-mill, and since there has been a third erected; the work carried on is that of buying yarn, and weaving it into linens, ten pence to thirty pence white; also diapers, sheeting, ticking, and linens and cottons of all sorts printed here for common use and furniture. These several branches of the linen, employ 130 looms, and above 300 hands.

Another of Mr. Jeffery’s objects has been the stocking manufacture, which employs 20 frames and 30 hands, in buildings erected by him; the manager employing, by covenant, a certain number of apprentices, in order by their being instructed, to diffuse the manufactory. Likewise, a woollen manufactory, a mill for milling, tucking, etc., broad cloths. A gig mill for knapping, which will dress above 500 pieces a year, but will be more, when some alterations now making are finished. A leather mill for dressing shamoy, buck, or skins, fully employed. A large bolting mill, just finished, and let for £32 a year. A mill, annexed to the same, just finishing, for plating; and a blade mill for grinding edged tools. A large paper mill, which will be finished this year. He has been able to erect this multiplicity of mills, thirteen in all, by an uncommon command of water.

The town is built in a square, composed of a large hand-some inn and manufacturers houses, all built of excellent stone, lime and slate. A church, by the first fruits, and liberal addition of above £300 from Mr. Jeffery’s. A market-house, in which are sold a hundred pounds worth of knit stockings per week. Four bridges, which he obtained from the county, and another (the flat arch) to which he contributed a considerable sum. Much has been done, yet is not the design near finished.

To shew the magnitude of these works, and the degree of public good resulting from them, I shall mention the expense at which they have been executed. Respecting the principal bleach-mill, Messrs. Forest and Donnoghue, under the Linen Act, took fifteen acres, at a guinea an acre, upon which they have expended £5,000 in erecting a linen mill and bleach green, 25 houses for 25 families, 4 looms in each house, a large dwelling house for themselves or their director; in each house, a man, his wife, three apprentices, 2 girls and 2 boys, besides young infants. In a short time, the farm was increased, and land, which before had only brought half a guinea, then let for a guinea. The Linen Board advanced £500 to this work, and Mr. Jeffery’s repaid them £1,400 of the £5,000. The old rent of the premises was £40 a year, the new rent £71 a year. Another bleach mill, which cost Mr. Jeffery’s £300 to which the Board added £300 and the person to whom it is let, £600. 40 acres of land formerly let at £10 a year, go with them. The whole rent now £80. To this mill is since added an oat-mill, which cost £300, 2 tuck mills, £200; a leather mill, which cost Mr. Jeffery’s £2,300, to which the Board added £300 promising £1,000 more when the works should be finished, which they have been these two years. 12 Printing tables are kept going, and 65 hands employed, 12 printers. 12 tire boys, 3 print cutters, 18 bleachmen, 6 pencillers, 2 tubmen, 1 clerk. 1 callender. 1 manager. 2 draughtsmen 4 coppermen 3 carters. Besides the above sums, the manufacturer has laid out £500. The quantity of land occupied is 25 acres: old rent £6 10s. new, £113 15s. A stocking factory, for which Mr. Jefferys lent £200. The man laid out £300 himself, he occupies 50 acres, before let at £20 a year; now at £76 11s. A gig mill, for which Mr. Jefferys lent £300 till repaid by the Dublin Society, who granted £300 towards it, and the tenant laid out £200, the quantity of land he has is eleven acres, to let at £5 10s. now at £36.

A manufactory of tape is established, by which means 6 acres of land are advanced, from £2 8s to £9. They have three looms going, which make 102 pieces a day of 36 yards each. The Dublin Society gave £20 to it. A paper mill, which has cost Mr. Jeffery’s £1,100 and is not yet let. A bolting mill, on which he has expended £1,100, the tenant £500 on adding an iron mill. Twenty acres of land, rent, before £910s. rent of the whole now £132.13s. The church has cost Mr. Jefferys £500 and the first fruits £500 more. The new inn, £250, to which the tenant added £300 more. 70 acres of land before, at £20 a year, now at £83 9s. A dwelling house £250, to which the tenant added £500. 90 acres of land before let at £54, the new rent is £74. 12 cottages, and a lime kiln which cost £280. 2 dwelling houses and a forge, which cost him £150 and to which Parliament granted £250 more. Upon the whole, therefore, Mr. Jefferys has expended £7,650 in these establishments. Of public money there has been added £2,170 and the tenants themselves laid out £9,050 in all, expending here £18,850 besides what Mr. Jefferys laid out on bridges, etc., in the whole, very near, if not full, £20,000 upon matters of public nature.

In all these establishments, he has avoided undertaking or carrying on any of the manufactures upon his own account, from a conviction that a gentleman can never do it without suffering very considerably. His object was to form a town, to give employment to the people and to improve he value of his estate by so doing; in all which views it must be admitted, that the near neighbourhood of so considerable a place as Cork very much contributed; the same means which he has pursued would, in all situations, be probably the most advisable, though the returns made might be less advantageous. Too much can scarcely be said in praise of the spirit with which a private gentleman has executed these works, which would undoubtedly do honour to the greatest fortune.

Mr. Jefferys, besides the above establishments, has very much improved Blarney Castle and its environs; he has formed an extensive ornamented ground, which is laid out with considerable taste; an extensive plantation surrounds a large piece of water, and walks lead through the whole; there are several very pretty, sequestered spots where covered benches are placed.

In 1780 Arthur Young published this Tour in Ireland, with General Observations on the Present State of that Kingdom in 1776–78.

Contact: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email: Tel: 087-2153216