Sawmills & the Kerry Tramway
A sawmill existed on the present site before the Tithe Survey of 1842, when a 'saw-machine ' was recorded as being present. Apart from Brook Cottage, further up the Miheli brook, there were no other buildings here at the time. The Tithe map indicates the sawmill as the present, stone built, ' Mill House ' converted by the writer in the 1970s. The site was established as a Conservation Area in 2004 by the local authority.
The sawmill, possibly wheel driven at that stage, (deduced from the arrangement of opposed archways in the present cellar and massive machine bases) was at that time purchased by Richard Leyland in 1839 from the estate of the late William Pugh, the former owner of Brynllywarch Hall, Kerry, and being part of the Leyland, Bullin, Naylor banking family of Liverpool, capital was available to convert these older properties into more efficient workshops for their programme of farm rebuilding. Due to unreliable flows in the brook, a reservoir was provided to allow year-round water power to turbines working the woodworking machines and at the Glanmiheli Farm close by, to run agricultural machinery. Over the following half century a small industrial complex was established on the south side of the brook providing a timber yard, milling shed, a smithy, offices, stabling and cottages for staff, with a steam driven tramway to transport timber from Kerry forest and products from the saw-mill down to the standard gauge railway at Kerry station.
Part of the estate development provided by the new owners was a 2 foot narrow gauge steam railway which existed in two phases, from 1887 to 1895 to be relayed during the First World War between 1917 and 1925, due to the demand for home-produced timber. The line ran from sidings in the railway yard at Kerry station to follow the valley of the Miheli brook into the hills, one branch reaching the Cwm quarry near the Kerry Ridgeway. Elsewhere the line reached the forest areas and was retracted as areas were cleared. Motive power for the earlier phase was provided by a Bagnall O-4-2 inverted tank engine, named 'Excelsior' , the second phase tramway was equipped with a Kerr Stuart O-4-O, Sirdar class,'Diana' and a Kerr Stuart O-6-O 'Haig' class tank. Baguley petrol tractors were also used in the later phase. To provide manpower to the estate over the First War period, a prisoner of war camp was constructed above Black Hall in the Rhos Dingle.
Our thanks to David Cox and Christopher Krupa for their booklet,'The Kerry tramway and other timber light railways', (Plateway Press, 1992).
JDN, for the Kerry history group, July, 2019.