Cotton Mill


Most people associate the name Yellow Walls with locally produced fabric being hung on the walls to dry and bleach thereby staining the walls yellow.

This may be a plausible explanation and related to the cottage industry of turning locally grown flax into linen cloth as the name goes back much further than the large cotton mill built there at the end of the 18th century

In seeking more information a fascinating story emerged and yet there is much for which I could find no written answers.


Varieties of the cotton plant are native to Asia, Africa and North and South America. The plant seeds have attached to them hairlike fibres, from a half to one and a half inches long. These fibres are the raw material of the cotton industry. Woven cotton cloth was produced by hand from earliest times but in Europe much of the cloth was woven from wool or linen. However, in the 18th century England, France and Spain had American and Caribbean colonies where cotton was grown and exported in bales.

The production of cloth from wool, linen and cotton was a cottage industry where wives and children did the carding and spinning whilst the husband was invariably the weaver and all worked long hours to eke out a living. The manual manufacturing process was slow and labour intensive.


Through the 18th century there was continual development of mechanical means to turn wool, flax and cotton fibers into thread or yarn and then weave the result into cloth. The problem in 1770 was that one person, using a spinning wheel, could spin only one thread at a time. Half a dozen spinners were needed to keep one weaver busy Ideas were developed and successively improved. However, virtually all of these revolved around the equipment used by individual craft workers.

Much thought was being given to finding faster ways of producing a more uniform thread and many patents for small incremental improvements emerged. However, a major breakthrough came about when Richard Arkwright, a former barber and wigmaker, drew various ideas together in a patent in 1769. It is interesting to look a little more closely at how Arkwright made his great breakthrough.

Arkwright analysed the spinner's action, and realised that two things were going on. First the fibres had to be stretched out, and then twisted into thread.

Several spinning machines were designed at about this time, but most of them tried to do the stretching and the twisting together. The problem is that the moment you start twisting the fibres they lock together. Arkwright's idea was to stretch first and then twist. The roving passed from a bobbin between a pair of rollers, and then a couple of inches later between another pair that were rotating at twice the speed. The result was to stretch the roving to twice its original length. A third pair of rollers repeated the process. They increased the length of the cotton yarn by a factor of three and they were then twisted.

The machine was called a water frame because it was powered by a water wheel.

A conventional spinning wheel needs one skilled operator to spin one thread. The spinning jenny could spin, say, a dozen threads, but needed a highly skilled operator. Arkwright's water frame needed no skill, and spun 128 threads at a time. Arkwright was well on the way to mass-production.

There were really two separate parts to Arkwright's brilliance. First was the machine that turned what had been a slow and skilled operation into childsplay. Second was to get children to operate it.

Arkwright built a large mill mill at Cromford, Derbyshire, on the River Derwent, creating one of the first factories that was specifically built to house machinery rather than just bringing workers together. Thus, hand operated spinning wheels were replaced with lines of spinning devices all driven by a single large water wheel, It was essentially the first factory of this kind in the world. Never before had people been put to work in such a well-organized way. Never had people been told to come in at a fixed time in the morning, and work all day at a prescribed task.

Having registered a rather vaguely worded patent he licensed it to business men making himself an enormous fortune. However, others adopted his ideas without paying a license fee and he lost the ensuing legal case in the House of Lords due to the vagueness of his patent wording.


All over Lancashire and Yorkshire water driven cotton mills using Arkwright's patent were springing up and were seen as a way of making a lot of money very quickly and indeed fortunes were made but only by astute hands-on operators. Many mills were built on steams that did not provide an adequate water supply to constantly turn the mill wheel, especially in dry weather. Bankruptcies were common. In Ireland, from about 1780 the Linen Board gave grants for machinery and the Dublin Society gave bounties on the sale of all-cotton goods using Irish warp and weft. The Irish parliament was anxious to protect and promote industry and was open to petitions for grant assistance to new cotton enterprises-outside a 10 mile radius of Dublin.

The fortunes being made in the North of England and to a lesser extent around Glasgow caught the attention of landlords, merchants and others in Ireland with capital to invest.

One such was Baron Hamilton, the landlord at Balbriggan, where there was a short tradition of cotton stocking weaving. He set up jenny shops, -distributed looms and -employed a succession of Lancashire manufacturers to install water spuming frames, perhaps the first in the country ( Dickson, David, 'Aspects of the Rise & Decline of die Irish Cotton Industry'). The majority of these gentlemen, it seemed, migrated because of financial embarrassment at home.


Another adventurer and nearer home was Richard Talbot, Lord of Malahide. It appears he was something of an entrepreneur for in 1782 he saw the prospects of a large and rapidly made fortune whilst at the same time providing employment for many of the local poor and idle through introducing the new factory system of producing cotton twist or warp as pioneered by Richard Arkwright. His land at Yellow Walls was watered by streams from Feltrim and Drynam feeding the Gaybrook Stream flowing through the valley between the present Millview and KUleen housing estates and known locally as "The Bottoms" and 'The Ponds'. At Barrack Bridge it flowed under the road into the estuary. The new Arkwright system of producing cotton twist depended on water power and so Taibot saw this as an ideal location to harness the power of the stream by means of a dam with a sluice and water wheel and establish a cotton processing enterprise. Ships could come close to the site (there was no railway obstructing access then) and there was a turnpike road to Dublin to which he was a subscriber.

Whilst apparently putting much of his own money into the venture he was in partnership with a major Liberties manufacturer in an attempt to transplant weavers (Dickson, David. 'Aspects of the Rise & Decline of the Irish Cotton Industry') to Malahide who would use the warp produced in his mill. He was also one of more than twenty petitioners to parliament claiming to be engaged in laying out substantial capital on plant for cotton or part-cotton manufacture. His late 1783 petition is reported in the Journal of the Irish House of Commons as follows (Journal of the Irish House of commons (JIHC), 31 Octoberl783. Page 48):

"A petition of Richard Talbot, of Malahide, in the County of Dublin, Esquire; was presented to the House, and read, setting forth, that Petitioner has, at a very great expense, brought over from England a complete set of machinery for perpetual spinning, (the first that ever was imported into this Kingdom) with proper people from thence to attend the same, which will be of great advantage to this Kingdom, by furnishing both to cotton weavers and hosiers that species of thread so necessary to their manufactures, and submitting the premises to the consideration of the House."

On the 30th November it was "Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Committee that a sum of 2,0001 be granted to Richard Talbot, Esq., to enable him to complete his Machinery at Malahide ", a very substantial sumat the time.

On looking more closely at the petition wording a number of points deserve attention.

  • A complete set of machinery was brought over from England - the necessary skills to make the machinery were probably scarce in Ireland.  Arkwright's patent machinery was made of wood and in England was often made locally for each mill by clockmakers or cabinetmakers who had the skills to make accurately sized wheel, gear and axle parts. It would be interesting to learn how Talbot acquired his machinery - was it from a bankrupt mill?

  • Whilst he may have been the first to import spinning machinery others, in particular Brooke and Hamilton, had already established mills probably using machinery made locally by English craftsmen.

  • The petition makes reference to "proper people from thence to attend same", in other words some English people with knowledge of cotton processing             machinery and the industry.

  • He was expecting to supply thread to hosiers and perhaps he had his neighbour Baron Hamilton in Balbriggan in mind.

Talbot, in common with many others investing capital, would have had little or no technical knowledge of cotton manufacture or marketing and so depended on managers or superintendents as they were more commonly called. His first manager was a Mr. Benjamin Gray and we learn from evidence given to a committee of the Westminster House of Lords in 17854 (Report of the Lords of the Committee of Council Appointed for the Consideration of all Matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations. JIHC, Appendix CCCCXXXV), 1785 by Mr. Joseph Smith, a calico manufacturer and printer, of Manchester that ".. he was a bankrupt two or three times before he went to Ireland. I believe he was not long with Colonel Talbot before he convinced him of his error in employing him. I have reason to believe he was indicted for Felony, and for secreting Goods of his Employer to a considerable amount;...... ".   Smith went on to say "Mr. Clarke, I believe, was Colonel Talbot's second man in the manufactory. Mr. Clarke has been twice a bankrupt - the last time was in 1780 or 1781; he paid three shillings in the pound and has not yet had his Certificate signed."

For what may have been his third manager Talbot turned to local talent when a Mr. John Mullen entered into a bond as follows "John Mullen of the city of Dublin, silk -weaver, am held and firmly bound unto Richard Talbot ofMallahide (sic) in the County of Dublin in the sum of 30 pounds good and lawful money to be paid to the said Richard Talbot or his lawful attorney.... Whereas the above bound John Mullen hath agreed to enter into the business of overseeing and assisting in the manufacture of cotton twist at said Richard Talbot's mitt situate at Mallahide and in doing and managing all and every other articles matters and things belonging or appertaining to said manufacture -with care and fidelity and according to the best of his skills and abilities for the term and space of three years to be compounded from the above date without divulging and disclosing any of the secrets of the above manufacture and without his making known any art or mystery only hiown to or practiced by the working people in said mills in consideration of which Richard Talbot hath agreed to pay John Mullen the annual sum of 30 pounds to be paid quarterly" (Talbot Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Box b.49). 

The difficulties hi introducing a factory system using a new advanced type of machinery in a country with little tradition of volume factory style production are alluded to when a petition was presented to the Irish House of Parliament in 1785. The full wording of the petition is too lengthy to read here but it included the following passage:

" ......... that the Petitioners have, at very great Expence, severally embarked, into Undertakings to introduce

and erect said Machinery in this Kingdom, to -wit: The Petitioner Richard Talbot, at Malahide; Smyth, and Partners, at Balbriggan, Kirchoffer; and Company, at Celbridge; and Nathaniel Wilson, at Belfast, and their Machinery bids fair to be as perfect as any in England; that the Difficulties attendant on an infant Undertaking, in a Country where every Person for every Branch of the Work is to be taught, and Artists to teach them not to be procured but at great Expence, with the Mistakes and Impositions which at first cannot be prevented, make a Difference of at least 40 per Cent more in this Country, than where the Works are established, and to the first Undertakers in a similar Proportion, more than to the succeeding ones, and Petitioners, from these Causes, feel themselves particularly distressed in the Prosecution of their Designs, in which they have embarked so great a Part of their Property;. "

The petition appears to have been successful and Talbot received a further £3,000, though some accounts say he actually received just one grant.


Apart from experienced managers or superintendents an undertaking of the magnitude of a cotton mill needed maintenance staff such as skilled woodworkers as the machines were made principally of wood and a blacksmith to look after shafting and gearing. The machinery would have been tended by children from the age of seven or eight up to mid teens. The thread was liable to break requiring that particular frame to be stopped and the thread knotted. The small nimble fingers of children could do this much more efficiently than adults thus reducing downtime. Going on the evidence from the Lancashire and Yorkshire mills the Malahide mill would have worked from 6 a.m. 'till 7 or 8 p.m. six days a week with a 30 or 40 minute break for food around noon. Any other food had to be taken without a break from their frames and they were not allowed to sit. There are numerous references to children ending up with deformed legs and backs. I have found nothing to suggest that Talbot used orphans or provided dormitory type accommodation but it has been suggested that Smyth in Balbriggan was employing children from Houses of Industry ( Burke.S, The Hamilton Family & The making of Balbriggan.). The Universal Register in a report mentions "several long edifices, where children spun cotton supplied by Mr. Talbot".

The children worked by candlelight and modest heating in the mill would have been by open fires with special flues to reduce the ever present serious risk of fire. The children were contracted to work for many years and if they ran away they would be forcibly brought back if found. Again going on English experience superintendents were often cruel taskmasters beating the children with canes or straps if they were caught sleeping or being insufficiently attentive to their frames

Lord John Sheffield published a pamphlet ( "Observations on Manufactures, Trade and the State of Ireland" by Lord John Sheffield (aka John Holroyd), 1785. Page199.) in 1785 in which he comments in relation to cotton manufacture in Ireland "the pleasure of seeing children advantageously employed in these works, wras greatly diminished by learning that part of them work all night, even so young as five or six years old, and the wages so low as sixpence per meek, and from that price to thirteen pence per week, in some places. The machinery moves smoother, if kept constantly at work; it therefore goes day and night, and consequently requires constant attendance."


As for the mill itself we have several descriptions.

In 1783 John Arbuthnot toured Leinster, Munster and Connaught to compile a report for the Linen Board on the state of the cotton industry and in relation to Malahide (Report by Inspector General of the Linen Board Mr. John Arbuthnot, 21 November, 1783. Page63.) he states :

"I find that the Mill is now at Work, having a large upright Shaft, and horizontal ones in each Story, to convey the Movement to all the Machinery which is to be erected, to the Amount of Twelve Hundred Spindles. At present there are only Three Frames, containing Forty-Eight Spindles each, at Work; but the rest are in such forwardness, that One would be set up every Ten Days, till the whole are finished, to the Amount of Twenty Five Frames. There is likewise a complete Set, such as Preparing, Breaking, Carding, Drawing and Roving Machines; all worked by the same Water Wheel, and which supply the Three Frames of Spindles. When all the intended Machinery is fixed, there will be Employment for One Thousand Persons, from the first Stage of the Manufacture, 'till the Goods are delivered at Market; to the Amount of Twenty Four Thousand Hanks per Week."

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a report on the former tour mentioned by Arbuthnot.

Then in 1785 the following piece was printed in the Universal Register (later The Times), of London ( Universal Register '(later 'The Times'), London, 25th June 1785, Page 2):.
"Extract of a letter from Dublin, June 17.

A gentleman named Talbot, of respectable family and independent fortune, has erected a cotton manufactory, at a fishing village called Malahide, situated within 8 miles of this Metropolis. This scheme is extensive, but there is every prospect of success, as the great command of water must considerably lessen expense of labour, and the situation, which is upon the very banks of a convenient harbour, renders the carriage hire inconsiderable. Among other buildings is a mill constructed with great ingenuity. It is five stories high, and in each story is carried on a different branch of the manufacture, each worked by water, under the inspection of a few superintendents. This water is supplied from a stream which descends from a high hill, into a reservoir, and also by a canal cut from the sea, and contrived that the flowing and ebbing of the tide operates upon the wheels, so that the machinery is in motion night and day. Round this mill a number of small convenient houses have been built for the manufacturers to reside in, as also several long edifices, where children spin cotton supplied by Mr. Talbot."    

It can be seen from the above accounts that Talbot had embarked on a very large and ambitious project by Irish standards of the day. He was using the very latest technology to mechanise many of the processes involved in producing cotton yarn.

In an indenture dated 4 November, 1791 there is a schedule of machinery divided between a sorting room, a reeling room, an upper spinning room, a carding room and a lower spinning room - five rooms and presumably one per floor. An office and a forge are also mentioned.(Talbot Papers, Bodleian Library)

Arkwright's patents did not extend to Ireland but it is safe to assume that the machinery installed in Irish mills closely followed his proven designs. Thus, we can be confident that the mill building at Barrack Bridge, in common with all other Arkwright type mills, was twenty seven feet wide measured between the insides of the walls. The length could vary depending on the size of the undertaking but looking at the Malahide 1,200 spindle structure on the first Ordnance Survey 6" Map of 1829-1841 it may have measured about sixty feet. The width of the walls grew with the number of storeys. Five would take the outside measure to over 30 feet.


Although there was a great deal of standardization in the buildings and machinery of Arkwright type mills this was not so with the water driven mill wheels. They varied in diameter from around sixteen feet to twenty eight feet and in width from four to twenty five feet. Comerford and O'Brien's Balbriggan wheel was 27' diameter by 8' wide. The Malahide wheel was quite wide - perhaps around ten feet judging by the distance between the remains of the sluice walls. A vertical shaft, connected to the water wheel axle by crown wheel and pinion gearing, ascended through the floors of the building and this in turn turned a driving shaft running down the centre of each room, and from large wooden drums belts transmitted power to frames and other machines on each side. The usual frame had 48 spindles - 24 on each side in groups of four.

The original water supply was the Gaybrook Stream flowing into a millpond between the present Millview Lawns and Killeen and created by damming the river just upstream of Barrack Bridge. A map of this pond, dated 1791, is among the Talbot papers but I have not personally seen the papers. This supply proved inadequate in dry weather. The General Evening Post, of London, dated December 6, 1788, quoting a letter from Dublin of November 28 writes about "The astonishing drought at this season of the year" and goes on to state that "The reservoirs at the cotton mills at Malahide and Balbriggen are almost dried up, being supplied from little brooks that cannot exist for any time without rain".

The indenture of 1791 notes that Talbot "...undertakes to endeavour to conduct the water of the river of Fieldstown to the millpond within six months...". It appears efforts were jnade to augment the supply by way of a much shorter canal. The first Ordnance Survey map dated 1829-41 clearly shows an "old mill race" running from the Malahide Rugby Club ground and along the landward side of Old Yellow Walls Road through the forecourt of the present shops to what may be a pond at the supposed site of the mill. On the map, this millrace commences at the Yellow Walls townland boundary about where the present Seabury Gardens road ends but no well, stream or other water source is shown and it appears to be too elevated above the water level of the Broadmeadow to be fed from there. No trace of this millraee is evident today but a dry ditch or gully may be seen running between Seabury Gardens and the new rugby ground and down to the Broadmeadow. Warburton, Whitelaw and Walsh in their History of Dublin, published in 1818 (History of the City ofDubtinT Vol. 2, Watburton, Whitdaw and Walsh, pp 974-75 (footnote)) state that "Maiahide laboured under a want of water, but the enterprising proprietor supplied the deficiency. It stands on the sea coast at the bottom of a bay. The water of the tide was received into a canal from whence it was raised by forcing engines to a height sufficient to command the work pe factory] and set the machinery in motion." Perhaps the ebb and flow of the tide was harnessed to drive the forcing engines but this is mere conjecture. In Lancashire, many mill owners had similarly underestimated the flow of water to their mills and introduced steam driven pumps to return waste water to their millponds but again practical engines were only appearing from the Boulton and Watts Birmingham works from about 1790.

There is some doubt about the precise locations of the mill building and its associated water wheel or wheels. I did not encounter any local folk memories pointing to a location. The first Ordnance Survey map, drawn about 1836 identifies a large building as Maiahide National School. In 1830 Fr. Carey, the Parish Priest, described the roof of this building as being dilapidated and not worth repairing. This may well have been originally the mill building but it is above and about 20 yards to the west of the sluice on the Gaybrook Stream which has some remains of the walls containing the stream and supporting the mill wheel. Mill waterwheels were invariably either within the mill building or at a gable end. Transmitting the power of the wheel to the mill over such a distance and angle would have been inefficient if not impractical at the time. Talbot may have tried to augment the water supply by means of the old mill race referred to earlier. Perhaps this fed a second waterwheel for there is a to the flowing and ebbing of the tide operating upon the wheels - plural.


The Universal Register report, referred to earlier, mentions that "round the mill a number of small convenient houses have been built for the manufacturers to reside in". These could have been for the use of the superintendent and his senior assistants as we know from a 1791 indenture that the then manager, Thomas Rogerson, was to have a house and garden as part of his remuneration. The houses could also have been for weavers brought out from Dublin to use warp from the mill and, I am told, some of the cottages on Millview Road were referred to as the "weavers' cottages" by locals in living memory.

John Taylor's map of 1816 and William Duncan's map, drawn in 1821 show structures standing on Sea Road between Yellow Walls Cross and the Yacht Club. One measures about 100 feet long by 20 feet, another about 80 x 20 feet and the rest around 60-70 feet by 20 feet. There are also a considerable number along Millview Road. A building is marked on the right hand side immediately across Barrack Bridge and nowadays the remains of the gable wall are still discernable at the end of Rupert Bissett's garden.

Perhaps these were the "long edifices" and "small convenient houses" referred to above.

As there are no weaving looms mentioned in the 1791 list of machinery in the mill it is likely that Talbot used the 'putting out system', a traditional stage in the development of capitalism, characterised by manufacturers supplying raw materials to outworkers or individuals working in their own homes and then marketing the finished products. From his mill Talbot may have supplied roving to jenny shop operators and warp to cottage weavers whom he had brought out from the Dublin Liberties.

I recall that as recently as the 1960's, Messrs Smyth & Co. of Balbriggan were still using outworkers in a small way.


Despite duties on goods imported from England and bounties payable on certain home produced cotton goods many of the Irish manufacturers struggled and there were bankruptcies including the very substantial Balbriggan enterprise of Messrs Comerford and O'Brien. In early 1785, parliament agreed to payment of bounties on, inter alia, home sale of manufactures of wool and cotton and it also agreed to grants for spinning machinery  ( J.I.H.C., 17 Feb., 1785. Large enterprises, such as Talbot's, qualified if they were beyond five miles.)

Talbot's aim was to produce twenty four thousand hanks of cotton a week ( Report by Inspector General of the Linen Board Mr. John Arbuthnot, 21 November, 1783. Page 63.). The mill was producing more warp than could be used locally for in 1876 Talbot was supplying yarn to Captain Brooke's enterprise in Prosperous ( Longfield, p.227) . This is theyear that the Prosperous mill went into bankruptcy so one wonders was Talbot paid. Weaving was strenuous work and thus done by men, usually in the family home where they worked long hours to eke out a living. Yarn not used locally was probably sent in to Dublin where merchants would have sold it on to city weavers and perhaps even exported some to Manchester, rapidly developing as the centre of the cotton trade and it is highly likely that Nathaniel Trumbull, who lived at Beechwood, Malahide and who was one of Dublin's largest merchants, also helped to market the finished product.

Despite a shortage of water and a lack of personal technical know-how Col. Richard Talbot struggled on through 1786 and 1787 with mounting debts. Undaunted, Talbot was again petitioning parliament in 1788 for permission to construct a canal inland from Malahide under much the same terms granted to the Grand Canal company. Parliament did, indeed, pass an act entitled "An Act for Making a Navigable Canal from the Town of Malahide to the River of Fieldstown". This canal, which he was somehow intending to finance himself, was allegedly to facilitate the distribution of goods from Malahide harbour but perhaps he also hoped it would enhance the flow of water into his millpond. Maybe 'the old mill race' referred to above was associated with this scheme.


Perhaps fortuitously for his family before he got even more disastrously into debt Richard Talbot died suddenly on the 24th of October, 1788. The "Freeman's Journal" reported that "The remains of the late Colonel Talbot were interred on Sunday morning early, in the family vault in Malahide, attended by a numerous train of tenantry, whose regret for their beloved landlord was fully evinced in their mournful and silent deportment during the funeral ceremony, which was performed by torchlight." (Freeman's Journal, 28 Oct. 1788)

On the 6th November the Freeman's Journal stated that "Yesterday their excellencies the Marquis and Marchioness of Buckingham set out for Malahide, the seat of Richard Ougan (stet) Talbot, Esquire; where, it is said, they propose residing for a few days and to view the cotton works established by the late lamented Colonel Talbot." and this piece was copied by The Times of London on the 11th.

An extract from the Hamwood Papers ( Hamwood, built 1764, on Kildare-Meath border, seat of Richard Hamilton (1772-1857), Agent for the Duke of Leinster) reads:

"Died in Dreadful Circumstances

Miss Scanlan whom we like very much told us in what Dreadful circumstances Talbot of Malahide died. That everything was seized after his death. Lord Buckingham sent immediately for the widow and children, gave her a house in the Park, gave a place of £500 a year to one of her sons."

Nevertheless, Mrs Talbot was in exalted company for a 1794 account (  "The Travellers Guide Through Ireland", George Tyner, 1994, p.23) stated that "In the Phoenix Park is the seat of Mrs Talbot, on the right; beyond which is the Lodge with a handsome demesne, the summer residence of His Excellency, the Lord Lieutenant, and also on the right; a little further on, that of his principal secretary."

The late Richard Talbot's heir was his eldest son, twenty-one year old Richard Wogan Talbot and he lost no time in tackling his father's debts. A captain in the 105th Regiment and quartered in Dublin Castle at the time, he was also Aid de Camp to the Lord Lieutenant, the Marquis of Buckingham, hence the latter's concern for Mrs Talbot and her family. Richard Wogan Talbot placed the following advertisement in the Freeman's Journal on the 29th of the month:



Ready furnished, with all the Offices suitable thereto, and an excellent large Garden, with as many Acres of the Demesne as may be required, to be let, for such term as shall be agreed on. Apply to Captain Talbot, at his apartments, Dublin Castle or to William Glascock, Esq.

N.B. The tenant may be accommodated with old Hay on valuation."

He had no immediate success for he repeated the insertion at least five times up to March, 1789.

Despite these difficulties Talbot decided to run for election to parliament in 1789 and in the course of a published election address stated:
“………… Father had expended the value of another part of it (his estate) in promoting an extensive

Manufacture, the encouragement of which still engages my most ernest attention............ "


There is little doubt but that the Yellow Walls business suffered from a lack of tight management and this aspect was alluded to on the 12th of June 1785 by a Mr. Joseph Smith, a prominent Manchester cotton merchant being examined by a Committee of Council at Westminster ( JIHC, 1785 .Appendix CCCCXXXV) when he gave some colourful but scathing evidence in replying to the question:

"Do you think that the Cotton Manufacture which has been hitherto established in Ireland has been properly conducted?"
In November 1790 Talbot, now with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 23rd Regiment of Infantry, was released from prison in France and permitted to return to England on parole in exchange for a French prisoner (Talbot Papers, Box b.6, Bodleian Library.).

The development of fabric finishing and printing appeared to be attracting more capital and after two years struggling to maintain the cotton enterprise from within his own resources he may have hoped for further vertical integration by signing an indenture in November, 1791, intended to run for fourteen years, wherein he was joined by Thomas Rogerson, James Marsh and James Talbot, all merchants of the city of Dublin and William Walcott of Furry Park, Co. Dublin as partners and joint traders to carry on the business of carding, spinning and otherwise manufacturing cotton at the cotton mill of Malahide. Each was to pay in £500 a quarter immediately and the balance within nine months. Rogerson was to have the actual management and agreed that 4uring the partnership he would chiefly reside at Malahide and attend entirely to the business. He was to have an annual salary of £150 and a house and garden. In consideration of the expense of Talbot and his father in building the mill, fixing machinery, etc Talbot was to have a third part of the clear yearly profits, not amounting to less than £200, but not more than £600. Should he spend anything on new mill streams, etc., he was to have yearly interest on that sum at 5%, provided he spent not more than £1,000. Talbot undertook to endeavour to conduct the water of the river of Fieldstown (near Rolestown) to the mill pond within six months, using the powers vested in him as heir to Richard Talbot by an act of parliament lately passed in this kingdom entitled 'An Act for Making navigable a Canal from the Town of Malahide to the river of Fieldstown'. A schedule of machinery in each of the five rooms or floors in the mill, the forge and the office was appended. It would appear that just 16 of the original 25 frames were in full working order with four more almost complete.


The story of the mill more or less ends here for I have been unable to find any further references to it. According to Lewis (A History and Topography of Dublin City and County* by Samuel Lewis, 1837.) writing in 1837, "though the Irish parliament granted £2,000 for the completion of the requisite machinery, it was ultimately abandoned." In a 1801 list of mills "of every kind" (  Archer, Lieut. Josef, (Dublin, 1801). A statistical survey of the County Dublin with observations on the means of

improvement.) there is no mention of the Malahide mill and a Return to the Linen Board ( Return by Inspectors of Yarn to the Linen Board, 1802.) in 1802 mentions that:

"Messrs Talbot and Hamilton had found their properties insufficient for their spirited projects. " And further on that:

"Brookes major enterprise failed, he became insolvent and [in the course of twenty-four hours 1,400 looms, with all their apparatus and dependences, were struck idle] "." Whitelaw and Walsh writing in 1818 ( 'The History of the City of Dublin', Whitelavv & Walsh, 1818) said "Mr. Talbot and Mr. Hamilton were equally unsuccessful and thus a few short years had seen the rise and fall of a very extraordinary commercial enterprise of the three private gentlemen. "


As for Richard Wogan Talbot he appears to have again gone back to full time army service for he was listed as commanding officer from 22 July, 1794 of the 118th (Fingal) Regiment of Foot with the rank of Lieut. Colonel (Army List, 1795) . The regiment embarked from Ireland the following January. Talbot was captured at Osland in 1798 (Noel Flanagan in Malahide Historical Society NEWSLETTER No. 27,1986) . He still managed to get himself elected to parliament and was a strong advocate of the Act of Union despite this measure being vociferously opposed by the Irish cotton merchants (  Dickson, David. 'Aspects of the Rise & Decline of the Irish Cotton Industry'.). His stance seems to confirm that his mill had gone out of business sometime in the mid 1790's.

Finally, on a happier note Talbot, sold the Garristown lands and now a widower, married a wealthy heiress from Killiney. His mother "who seems to have had social ambitions" ( Repotorium Novum, Vol.2 No. 1, 1957/58 in Dublin City Library, Local Studies Section, Pearse St.) achieved dramatic relief from her penury when she inherited a fortune in 1801 from a West Indian Governor uncle (Flanagan in Malahide Historical Society NEWSLETTER No. 27,1986) . She lived in a fine town house in Eccles Street and, in her later years, was a regular attendee at high society functions in Dublin. Three years before her death in 1834, she was created Baroness Talbot de Malahide. Her son Richard Wogan Taibot, continued in politics as a Westminster M.P. being returned in 1807 as Member for Co. Dublin "thus breaking up the old Conservatism which had so long existed"" ( 'History of the City of Dublin' by John T. Gilbert, 1859.). His joyous supporters unharnessed the horses of his carriage at the count centre at Kilmainham and hauled it through the city to Eccles Street where his mother greeted him from the balcony of her house. He died in 1849.


According to a Lancashire observer "Few of those who entered the cotton industry rich were successful. The men who did establish themselves were raised by their own efforts" (  Peter Gaskell, Stockport, 1836 quoted in 'The Water Spinners', Chris Aspin, 2003.). Talbot's cotton enterprise probably failed principally because of the lack of hands-on technical and managerial skills of himself and his managers, the difficulty of introducing a rural workforce to a factory environment, an erratic water supply and the imposition of tariffs in England on cotton goods imported from Ireland. The mill building probably became Malahide's first national school in about 1832 but no trace remains today. The Gaybrook Stream still flows but the mill pond is dry. Some stonework of the sluice for the water wheel may still be seen at Barrack Bridge.


Researched by Roger Greene (2008)