Most Cistercian monasteries were built close to rivers. This gave a source of power as well a water supply and fish for food.
Mills required a guaranteed supply of flowing water. This was done by the construction of a weir to create a reservoir. From here the water was fed into the mill race through the sluice gate to drive the mill wheel from above or below.
Because Holycross had a large volume of water in the Suir it had an undershot mill wheel. This method was introduced into Ireland by the Cistercians. They could grind 8 stone of corn in an hour. In Holycross the mill wheel was made of oak and turned at 7 revolutions per minute in a dry July.
The mill wheel turned a shaft, which moved the motion through gears to increase the speed. Power then reached the mill stone which rotated and crushed the grain. There were three different types of stone, each with its own job to do. The first pass broke the grain, the second one removed the shell, and the third crushed the grain.
Stone masons dressed the mill stones, and prepared them for the various tasks. A stone with many deep incisions produced finely crushed grain. Stones with fewer incisions crushed the grain more coarsely. As well as crushing the grain the final pass also blew out any dust or fine particles of chaff. Carpenters, millers, wheelwrights, coopers, stone masons and bakers were needed to keep the business going.
Any group that would like to take ‘A Village Walk’ through Holycross or through the Abbey should contact 086 1665869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tours of the Abbey continue every Wednesday and Sunday at 2pm.