A LANDMARK building in Skibbereen – a former famine soup kitchen – is on the verge of being bought by Cork County Council.
It is understood that Cork County Council has entered into an agreement to purchase the Old Steam Mill building, but the contract for the sale has yet to be signed.
The historical significance of the building that was built in the 1780s – not just for the town but in national terms too – would make it an ideal exhibition centre, but it is not yet clear what the Council’s intention is.
The mill became one of the first – if not the first – soup kitchen in the country during the Great Famine.
The imposing four-storey building that was built by landowner Thomas H Marmion, and stands on the banks of the River Ilen, also holds the distinction of being one of the first mills ever to be established in Ireland.
Thomas Henry Marmion and Patience Marmion owned over 700 acres in the Skibbereen area in the 1870s, and Marmion was considered to be among the most progressive millers in Cork at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries.
After the Steam Mill’s use as a soup kitchen, the family of the current owners, the Roycrofts, oversaw its return to the milling business. In later years, the ground floor of the premises became a bicycle shop, but it has remained idle for more than a decade.
There were concerns that the cut stone building – which measures 10,000 sq ft over the four storeys – would fall into such disrepair that it could not be salvaged, but the fact that it is listed as a protected building and could have Cork County Council as its new owner, has brought reassurance and hope to the people of Skibbereen.
Fine Gael TD, Jim Daly, who previously proposed the development of this property as an artisan food hall at a public meeting in Skibbereen, commended the local authority for ‘stepping in and filling the void left by the private sector in this instance.’
He said: There is a range of uses that could be suitably developed for the greater good of the town and to attract more visitors – it is a move that would be most welcome.’