The village of Bessbrook could probably be
said with some justification to owe its existence, as of course
do many others to its geographical location. In Bessbrook's case
it was the Camlough river which flows thorough the village with
a constancy which
in the past had attracted many entrepreneurial spirits to the site.
At the mill there was an available fall of fifty feet in the river
which was capable of producing a constant 80 horse power.
it had been used for processing wool, as a bleach works and for
the manufacture of thread, a disastrous fire in 1839 left Bessbrook
Mill in desolation and no doubt the workers destitute. The mill
lay until 1844 when it together with fifty acres of land was advertised
advertisement attracted the attention of one John Grubb Richardson
(1815-90) a Quaker business man from Lisburn
(Co Antrim), he purchased the mill refurbished it and began a flax
spinning, weaving and bleaching enterprise on the site. The proximity
of the port of Newry and the soon to be opened railway
linking Belfast and Dublin contributed to the success of the enterprise,
this success manifested itself across the community, with employment
for building and ancillary trades and business for local farmers
supplying food for the burgeoning population.
1878 some thirty-three years after Richardson's acquired the mill
it employed 3,000 workers with a further 1,500 out workers engaged
mainly in hand loom weaving.
was far ahead of his time, he built housing for his workers laying
the town out in two large squares, he was firmly against alcohol
so the village had no pubs, nor did it have a pawn broker, or police
station, so it became known as the village without the three P's.
A school was built for the workers children, night classes were
also run for the factory workers. The Quaker philosophy of tolerance
was encouraged, the workforce was drawn from all political divides,
many people from the southern counties were employed.
business continued until 1972 as The Bessbrook Spinning Company
with some members of the Richardson family on the board, 1987 saw
the closure of the company, the main building was used as an Army
Base until 2nd July 2007, the site is now to be developed, hopefully
It is said that Bessbrook
was the inspiration for Cadbury Brother's Model Village of Bournville.
The Richardson family home was Moyallon House between Gilford
and Portadown in County Armagh.
the years of 1885 and 1947 a hydro-electric tramway carrying passengers
and freight operated between Bessbrook and Newry,
it was the first such tramway in the world. One of the locomotives
is preserved in The Ulster Folk
& Transport Museum at Cultra Co Down, a brake van is used
in a local convent as a summer house.