Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

Coalisland Spade Mill

Rural Area - Discovery Farm 44

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This is an original building. The spade mill was built in the 1850s and comes from the townland of Derry, near Coalisland in County Tyrone. It was dismantled and moved to the Folk Museum in 1960.

There are two buildings in the museum exhibit. The actual spade mill and a building which once housed four finishing shops. This building now houses a large finishing shop and a small exhibition gallery on the history and processes of spade making.

The spade mill consists of a single storey building, mostly built from stone; the back gable wall and chimney are of brick. The mill is water power driven and has two external breast–shot wheels. A massive hammer within the mill is tripped by means of a cast iron wheel driven directly from the larger of the two wheels outside. There are two dams and mill races.

Between 1800 and 1900 in Ireland, the spade not the plough was the most usual tool of cultivation. Ulster spades had welded sockets and spade mills erected to mass produce them. The spade maker was a skilled craftsman able to make up to 120 varieties of spade, in up to five sizes. Differences in spade types were determined by soil conditions, the job in hand and local traditions.

The Coalisland spade mill was operated by the Patterson family until the 1950s. The Patterson family were prominent spade mill owners in Ulster. Their family connections with the craft spanned five generations.

The Coalisland mill ceased production about 1950 and its then owners, J Stephenson and Company, kindly donated it to the museum in early 1960.

Look at the two external water wheels which drive the mill and the massive hammer used in the production of spades. Take a look at the finishing shop where the process of spade-production ended and the exhibition on spades.