The  oldest section of the  complex of structures which  one old mill buildingsees today at Fancroft Mill dates  from around 1780. They have their origins in the industrious lives of the  Pim family, Quaker millers.

The original water wheel at Fancroft was external to this fine 5 storey sandstone building. However, due to the success of the enterprise at Fancroft, in 1883 the mill was reequipped. The original  smaller wheel was replaced by the current 4.5m diameter, breast shot  wheel from the Byrne foundary in Dublin’s  James’s Street (The Fountain Head  Bell Casting Works). A third set of grinding stones was also installed at this time. Further enlargements to the mill followed: the storage area over the water wheel, a very extensive L shaped store on 4 levels and a 2 storey section which now houses the Mill Tea Rooms and lecture/performance area.

By the mid 1940’s grain was no longer milled at Fancroft. With the arrival of rural electrification an electric bucket elevator system was installed in the 1960’s and the water wheel was no longer used to drive the elevators carrying grain to the upper floors. The significant storage facilities for grain remained in use until the early 1990’s by the Hastings, a family of millers from Roscrea who purchased the mill in the  1970’s.   

derelict mill before renovationTHE MILL REBORN

Images from 2006 of the North, South and East facing facades of the Mill complex tell  something of  the story of what has been accomplished here.

Today Fancroft mill is a handsome, even beautiful, structure with the  stone work now cleaned, conserved and repaired, 90  new sash windows installed, the 4 storey bay reroofed and graceful ogee details over the doors sensitively enhanced. In Summer, festooned in vines and honeysuckle it is a constant delight to the local community  as they  go about their lives. The interior work, less obvious, is equally fascinating.

Repairs to floors and installation of new stairs allow safe access to virtually all areas for visitors on the guided tours. The water wheel at Fancroft  revolved once more in September 2009 having been still and silent for more than 60 years  and the mill yard was again filled with its rhythmic whooshing  sounds. 



working on the wheel


The Weimar Connection

A serendipitous encounter in 2009  by Marcus with two  German milling engineers  has been fundamental in the restoration of milling capacity at Fancroft. Sven Richter and Jochen Kohler  from Weimar in the region of Thuringia surveyed Fancroft mill in its dilapidation. They were enthusiastic about its possible  rebirth. They  were contracted to act as midwives for the project!

The interior surface of the wheel was replated, teeth in the main gear replaced (each tooth made of white Beech hand chiselled to a precise profile and lubricated with bees wax to ensure a perfect mesh), a new set of mill stones were commissioned and installed in 2010. Hoppers and elevators were custom built by master craftsman/joiner Uwe Schmidt.

Where possible, items of equipment were sourced from old mills. For example, a sieve was  refurbished and modified by Uwe for installation at Fancroft  in that initial phase, it  yields 3 fractions, i.e. white flour, brown flour and semolina. In July 2014 he devised, constructed and installed another  sieve  which produces wonderful coarse brown flour for   use in the household.



generator with belted connection to mill mechanismHYDRO POWER AT FANCROFT


The flow characteristics of the river at Fancroft Mill are as follows: a head of 1.8m and a low level flow of 120 litres per second. These render the site unsuitable for either a turbine or an Archimedean Screw installation. As a result, it was decided to go for a generator installation driven from the waterwheel. In keeping with the conservation ethos of the Fancroft  Mill  redevelopment project, a gear box was constructed using line shafting of similar age to all the other equipment at Fancroft  which dates from around 1800.

Flat leather belts were used for the drive with tensioning devices being developed and installed to optimise the power transmission. A 4kw AC synchronous generator (5 horse power approx.) was installed. This produces 1.5 – 2.00kw of continuous power which is used to feed 2 x 2kw immersion heaters in a 1000 litre thermal store.

The thermal store is a Finnish design and contains a solar  coil, an oil boiler coil and  2 x 2 kw  immersion heaters. This thermal store is used for both domestic hot water and heating Fancroft Millhouse. Supplemented by the solar array installed in 2012, reliance on heating oil for the house has been halved since the introduction of the hydro and solar power.

The hydro power and solar are viewed as being complementary in that in Summer, when water levels are  usually low, one hopes for maximum solar output  while in Winter the situation is reversed.



Tea rooms


The mill complex now houses the Mill Tea Room. The wood burning stove makes this  a welcoming venue even when weather is inclement. The toilets are wheelchair accessible and convenient to the Tea Room.

Upstairs is the Lecture Room/Performance area  with seating for up to  80 persons. This is where visitors are given a presentation on Fancroft’s history and the story of the conservation project before they proceed to the gardens or participate in a guided tour of the mill. In addition, Heritage Seminars, musical events (classical & traditional), and organisational meetings have been hosted here.

A section of this upper floor has been dedicated to the archive of the MILLS  AND MILLERS OF IRELAND (MMOI). Visitors may explore this interesting collection of literature.





view up garden path kingfisher butterfly on yellow flower. magnetic compass among purple crocus flowers. rusty metal cylinder in crevice of stone wall