A Corn Mill on this site (at Shean,
Liggartown) was mentioned in the Civil Survey of 1640
as part of the Abercorn estate. Galbraith Hamilton became
the tenant in about 1729 and, on the adjoining lands,
established a Bleach Green which was abandoned around
In the 1750s, the Mill was in need of rebuilding, and
Hamilton was advised to add to it a Wheat mill, for
which he was loaned £100 by the Marquis of Abercorn.
He also petitioned the Irish House of Commons in 1765
for financial assistance in building the Mill. However,
this venture did not prove successful. In the 1780s,
Abercorn intervened personally and more than £1,000
was laid out on improving the Seein mill. This included
£39 for two French millstones and £36 for
a stove for drying wheat. Abercorn brought in Alexander
Stewart to design and build it. Stewart later became
Clerk of Works during the building of Castle Coole.
In 1828, this mill was rebuilt by Abercorn, but shortly
afterwards became incorporated in the flax spinning
mill standing here today, having been purchased by way
of a 500 year lease by the Herdman brothers, James,
John and George, in 1835 in partnership with the Mulhollands
(Andrew and Sinclair) and Robert Lyons. By 1849, the
Herdmans were the sole owners, having bought out their
partners. A map of 1846 shows the "Old Mill" as measuring
248 ft long by 48 ft wide. In 1879 a third storey was
added. This Mill became known as the Tow Mill and was
where the hackling of the flax took place.
HISTORY OF POWER
1839 2 Water wheels producing 70
1840 Weir completed (paved in 1858
with roman cement and square stones).
Watercourse built - 35 ft wide, 6 ft deep.
1842 Gasworks (coal-fired) erected.
1843 All houses in village provided
with a gas light, the shop with 4 lights and lamps on
1845 New waterwheel installed.
1849 4 Waterwheels producing 600 horse
power and Steam Engine.
1865 New "walking beam" engine installed
(the last word in its day). Named "Gladiateur" after
that year's winner of the Derby. It continued working
for 41 years.
1870 New Sluices built.
1892 Electric light in Mill. 250
lights from its own dynamo.
1900 - 03 Turbines installed. 1000
( To calculate waterpower : 720 cubic
ft falling one foot per minute is equal to one horse
power. Take depth and width of watercourse. Multiply
by number of feet passing per minute and multiply the
result by the fall, then divide by 720).
Width of watercourse/35 ft x Depth/6 ft x Speed full
water per minute/242 ft = 51000 ft x by fall of 14 ft
per minute, divided by 720 gives practically 1000 horsepower).
1919 - 20 DC Turbines installed in
new small Turbine House providing 135 horsepower to
produce lighting for the Mill, the village, Sion House
and Camus House.
1989 Turbines abandoned when all
operations moved to new Mourne Mill.
1995 New turbines installed with
potential to produce 850 kw. This power sold to the
grid which provides an income to help subsidise Herdmans'
HISTORY OF MAIN MILL
The Main Mill was built in 1853 to 1855. The Architect
was William Lynn of Lanyon Lynn and Lanyon, Belfast.
Built of grey ashlar stone quarried locally in Douglas
Bridge. The builder was John McCracken. The building
was designed as a fireproof mill. This building was
used for preparing and spinning until 1989 when the
Mourne Mill was opened and it was abandoned.
The Line Preparing frontage and Mechanics Shop were
built in 1888 with yellow brick from Kilmarnock.
A two storey yellow-brick extension was built in 1888
by J. Ballantine and Co. Derry, designed by William
Lynn (known as the New End).
Three storeys were added to the New End in 1907 with
no pillars thus leaving more room for longer machines.
This was achieved by buttressing the walls and using
girders of very heavy section.
The main Mill was built wider than normal for spinning
mills, which enabled Herdmans to survive in later years
when others couldn't, because they were able to accommodate
Elaine - Jan '08
Interested in the Galbraith Hamilton mentioned at the beginning.
Anyone know his line? Almost certainly related to the Abercorns,
who were Hamiltons?
Anne Herdman - Apr '07
I am very interested to know what is the connection with the
Herdman's in Sion Mills, the Herdman's in Dromore, Co Down,
and Herdman's of Port Erin,IOM as the names of George, James,
William, Mary seem to appear in all families.
Joy - Feb '07
I am a decendant of John Herdman who lived in Mill Creek,
Walnut Creet area of New Castle County, Delaware as early
as 1769, possibly before that date. His father was John Herdman
(b. 1739)who married Eleanor Hamilton (b. 1743). He fought
in the Rev. War. There was a William Hamilton living in the
same area at this time and probably a brother. Does anyone
know of these people?
D C Millar - Jan '07
I read sometime ago on a Sion Mills website which I can no
longer find that stone from a quarry near Douglas was used
in building the mill. I find it intersting the the mill was "built
of grey ashlar stone quarried locally in Douglas Bridge".
I'd be intersted to know the exact location of this quarry
if that is possible and also who owned it, and how the stone
Sue Kennedy - Aug '06
For Nigel and Annette Herdman,
I have come across this article about the Sion Mills when
researching the Herdman name. I live in Victoria, Australia
and my great great grandparents were William and Susan (nee
Low) Herdman. They were both born in Scotland in 1827. They
had 8 children, most born in Cadder, Lanark, Scotland. I know
that three of these children immigrated to Australia and I
have recently written to ALL Herdmans in New South Wales and
Victoria hoping for some response. I have a lot of information
about subsequent generations through my maternal great grandparents,
maternal grandparents and my mother in Australia. Also lots
Would love a response if you think you are related.
Joe Simpson - July '06
Annette/Celia/Nigel - for some background on Sir James Emerson
Tennent (1804-1869, author, one-time MP for Belfast and Colonial
Secretary in Ceylon 1845-50), please see my photo-essay on
Andrew Nicholl in the Gtr. Belfast section of YP&M's website.
JET's older sister Eliza Emerson married William Suffern,
therefore JET was the maternal great-uncle of Emerson Tennent
Herdman, Celia's great-grandfather, who was obviously named
after him. JET took on the Tennent surname in 1832 after he
married Letitia Tennent, daughter of the William Tennent whose
bank later merged to become the Northern Bank. JET (James)
was the youngest two other Emerson siblings, George and Arbuthnot,
were born between him and the oldest, Eliza. Their parents
were William Emerson – Merchant; born Ardmore, Co. Armagh
in 1759; died Belfast on May 1, 1821. Buried at Ballylesson,
Co. Down; and Sarah Emerson – daughter of William Arbuthnot,
of Rockville, Co. Down; died Dec 17 1851; buried at Ballylesson,
Co. Down. P.S. - I much enjoyed reading this article by Celia
Celia Ferguson - May '06
Annette - I wrote the above article and James Herdman was
my great great grandfather. How are your children related?
I would be interested to know as your letter is a bit of a
mystery. I am the only daughter (with 3 brothers) of Claud
Herdman who was son of Captain Jack Herdman of Sion House.
His father, Emerson Tennent Herdman, was the second son of
James Herdman who founded Sion Mills in 1835 with his 2 younger
brothers. I live in Sion Mills.
Nigel Herdman - May '06
For Annette Herdman - I am Nigel Herdman, born and bred in
Sion Mills. James Herdman (born 1809) was my great great grandfather.
Might you have got the date a couple years out? Perhaps I
am your children's uncle. We have a very comprehensive family
tree which is missing some of our American cousins. Would
I be right in thinking that is where you live? You can contact
me through this website.
Annette Herdman - May '06
I was very intrested to read about Sion Mills are my children
are direct decendents of the Herdmans. James Herdman born
1811 was their great great great Grandfather. Would love to
hear from any other Herdmans.