Blarney Village Centre
Blarney village is located just under 20 minutes from Cork City Center, taking the N20 and then the R617 into Blarney, Co Cork, 5 miles from Cork. Blarney is set in a lovely wooded river area, with its attractive old village, dated back to the 18th Century, which centers around the village green. The square is surrounded by many shops, restaurants, bars and a hotel.
The Village Green and its surrounding houses were part of James St John Jefferyes model estate village, considered at its time to be one of the finest of its kind in Ireland.
In 1703, his Grand Father, Sir James Jeffery’s, who was the Governor of Cork, bought ‘the Castle, Village, Mills, Customs, all lands and the park thereto belonging, containing 1401 acres’.
This property had had 2 previous owners in a space of less than 12 months. The estate had been auctioned in 1702, following confiscation by the State of all estates of the native chiefs. (Following The Battle of The Boyne, and loss of the Irish Cause in 1609)
The state has remained in the family ever since.
James Jeffery’s began improvements to the estate in 1765. By recognising that the fast flowing streams could be utilised to provide power for mills, thereby bringing industry into the area, the village would prosper.
To accommodate the number of mill workers and their families, he designed the village green, and built 90 cottages, each having a long garden, on 3 sides of the Green. On the 4th side, a church was built. Prior to this, there had been a handful of ‘mud cabins’.
During this era, in Europe, it was a period of elegance. This forward thinking landlord, recognised the need for good taste in design, and in embracing new ideas to make it a model estate village. As in the European Estates, he planned to develop the village around the Castle.
By 1900, there were around 800 workers employed in the mills. Village life revolved around the Mills, with even lunch time being dictated by the factory hooter sounding over the estate. Children followed their parents into the mills, with many generations of Blarney families earning their living in the various Mills. (Woollens, stockings, paper, blades, cotton etc)
During WW1, production increased to provide the uniforms for the British Forces.
Sadly, by the 1970’s, the Woollen mills weren’t able to compete financially with cheap imports of man made textiles and mass produced clothing from Asia. Fashions had changed (remember glam rock?) leaving little demand for the traditional tweeds. The mills closed one by one. When the Blarney Woollen Mills was forced into closure, it was the sign of the end of the local community, and its knock on effect. People moved away to find work in Cork or beyond, so the local shops and businesses lost their income.
The Blarney Woollen Mills were later to be regenerated into a tourist centre, with its gift shop, hotel and restaurant. Once again, high quality clothing is being produced here, for the fashion trade.