For many years during the troubles in Northern Ireland the border village of Caledon in County Tyrone looked shabby, with many derelict and unused buildings along the main street. It looks very different nowadays, as the restored courthouse building testifies.
In 1984 the village was designated as a Conservation Area and six years later, this was reviewed and the boundary extended. DoE (NI) Planning Service produced a Conservation Area Guide to accompany the original designation, which included design guidance intended to help protect the historic fabric of the village.
The Caledon Regeneration Partnership was formed in 1994 to take forward a planned social, economic and environmental regeneration strategy for the County Armagh village. It is made up of representatives from the local community, local authority and Caledon Estates Company, which has an office in the main street.
One of the projects being undertaken is the restoration of a beam engine and engine house. Last year a total of £220,000 in funding was secured to finance the first phase. It is hoped that the engine will eventually be restored to a fully operational state, and become a tourist attraction for the area. The unique piece of equipment dates back to the early 1830s and is one of the earliest surviving steam engines in Ireland. It was once used to power the Caledon Flour Mill and then Caledon Woollen Mills.
William Beattie of Caledon Regeneration Partnership said he believed the beam engine is unique in these islands:- “There are only about eight beam engines in Ireland, and this one is the only one which has a housed engine, making it a very important piece of industrial archaeology. This is the only relic remaining of Caledon’s once famous mill industry, which produced quality woollen garments until the 1930s. The mill, which was built in the early 1800s, was demolished in 1985. During the summer, wood and coal was used to power the beam engine, when the water-flow was not strong enough to move the wheel. The hope is to get the engine functioning again, and to create a viable tourism attraction which will also faithfully record the history of the village”, he said.
In addition a Grade B listed property, a former worker’s building on the Caledon Estate, which has lain derelict for years, has received funding worth £30,000 under the Historic Buildings Grant-Aid Scheme.
Caledon estate was bought from the seventh Earl of Cork for £94,400 in 1776 by James Alexander (later first Earl of Caledon), an East India Company Nabob. The Earls of Cork and Orrery had only acquired the estate by marriage from the Hamilton family in 1738, but during the forty years of ownership, they had made it into a by-word for fashionable landscape design, complete with a gate lodge decorated with statues and Latin epigrams, a hermitage and a bone house.
Caledon Regeneration is one of five groups taking part in the “Shared History, Shared Future” project under the Peace III programme run by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council. On Thursday evening (25th April) at 7pm, the historian Jack Johnston of the William Carleton Society will give a talk on the Clogher Valley Railway. The narrow gauge line ran through the main street of the village until its closure in 1941.