Sunday, 19 May 2013

Nature in different guises!

Yesterday it poured all day.  Well what’s new!  I went away with the Family History Society to visit the 400 year old former home of Hazel  Radclyffe- Dolling, who was the last member of the Staples family who owned Lissan House near Cookstown.  We were shown into the Ballroom and we were very grateful to see this welcoming open fire with firewood cut from the 256 acre estate.

The Ballroom’s floor boards below are 200 years old made from the estate forest and being fitted together wonderfully with crafted knuckle joints.

In the reading room there was a wonderful black 3 panel screen with mother of pearl and beautiful bird decoration on it.  Below I photographed a part of it with birds and foliage.

The room’s walls were decorated with 200 year old wallpaper containing arsenic and cyanide so we didn’t touch them!  It had birds, butterflies and flowers on it.  Below is a close up of the wallpaper.

Close up of wallpaper
The Lissan House guide with our group in the Reading Room with the wallpaper in the background

She gave us a very comprehensive, interesting and humous history of the house, garden and family tree.  I will just mention 2 things in regard to family members.   The Rt Hon. John Staples, 1736-1820 was the great, great grand father of C.S. Lewis and Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples, 12th Baronet (1853–1943) was a peer and became one of Ulster's best known artists known as the "barefoot baronet".  He was a good friend of King Edward V11.  One time when the King was visiting Cookstown by train, he was astonished to meet Staples and said, “ Good grief Ponsy, what are you doing here”?  Staples proudly said, “I live here Sir!”
After a super lunch at the Royal Hotel we went to Wellbrook Beetling Mill.    It dates from 1830 and is the last water-powered linen beetling mill.   The guide started by showing us flax seed from which the linen is grown, then taking us though all the processes until the beetling mill. 

Flax Seed
The function of a beetling mill is to form a smooth glossy sheen on woven linen cloth. When the cloth first came to the mill it was wound around a smooth wooden cylinder, these were actually tree trunks which had been turned on a lathe.  I hope you can zoom these 2 photos up to be able to read and understand the workings of the mill.

The cylinder is set in a wooden frame called a beetling engine, directly above the cylinder are thirty two beetles, these are pieces of wood usually beech and are about 4" square and about 5 Ft long, the beetles are set side by side and are free to move vertically, protruding from each of these about half way up is another piece of beech about 6" long.

In line with these at the same height as the wiper beam, this is again a tree trunk with a steel shaft up the centre bolted to this and arranged in a spiral are thirty two lifts, when the engine is started the wiper beam turns lifting and dropping the beetles in succession, at the same time the roller carrying the cloth turns but much more slowly. The cloth was beetled like this for two or three days.

Beetling Mill
This video below will show you the Beetling Mill in operation

After the cloth was finished it hung in the drying room above the engine house, before being folded for dispatch, linen was usually processed in bolts 23 yards long.  It was fascinating and I hope you enjoy watching the video I took of the beetling machine working.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope the rain will stop so I can get out to photo living nature!


  1. Replies
    1. Yes it is amazing and the whole process of linen making before it got to the mill stage was fascinating.

  2. Thinking how old all that is, really brings home the craftsmanship of the time.
    Fascinating video.

  3. Hi Keith Yes I wonder how many carpenter would make a joint like that! I never really knew the whole process of making linen. It was just a pity I could not put all the information in the post.

  4. Very good the photos of life in general. It is beautiful Margaret.

  5. Wow - I'm amazed by wallpaper that is 200 years old. Arsenic and cyanide? - good thing some things have changed!