Looking back at the historic Odlums Mills in Cork

Odlums closed their doors at the docklands building in September 2009.
Looking back at the historic Odlums Mills in Cork

Pictured in 1999: Bill Ramsey (MD) with from left staff members Anthony O'Brien, Clare O'Callaghan, John Roche, Owen O'Callaghan. Odlums Mills in Cork were winners of the National Innovation Awards for Medium-Sized Businesses.

Big news emerged earlier this week regarding Cork's historic Odlums Mills building as under new plans the building looks set to be restored and repurposed.

O’Callaghan Properties is to seek permission to strip back the existing structure of the landmark building as part of plans for a major development at the South Docks.

Under the plans, O’Callaghan Properties intends to create two seven and nine-storey buildings on the site incorporating 84 one, two and three bed apartments, a cinema, food hall, office space and a new 360-degree landmark rooftop destination in the city.

Odlums Mills pictured in 2007. 
Odlums Mills pictured in 2007. 

A spokesperson for the company said that while the original Odlums building is not a simple structure it does, once stripped back and isolated, “present a building volume that is open to re-use and extension with little or no impact on the quality of the original structure.”

The spokesperson said that significant features and fabric of architectural and/ or industrial heritage historic interest from areas of the building are proposed to be carefully removed and salvaged.

“It is intended to re-use and feature some equipment internally and externally where feasible,” they added.

Odlums closed their doors at the docklands building in September 2009, leading to the loss of 27 jobs.

At the time the mill produced predominantly for bakery and catering businesses. 

Pictured in 1999: Bill Ramsey (MD) with from left staff members Anthony O'Brien, Clare O'Callaghan, John Roche, Owen O'Callaghan. Odlums Mills in Cork were winners of the National Innovation Awards for Medium-Sized Businesses.
Pictured in 1999: Bill Ramsey (MD) with from left staff members Anthony O'Brien, Clare O'Callaghan, John Roche, Owen O'Callaghan. Odlums Mills in Cork were winners of the National Innovation Awards for Medium-Sized Businesses.

Increased competition as a result of excess milling capacity in the UK, exacerbated by the decline in the value of sterling,  was cited as the primary reason for shutting the mill when the announcement was made in July of that year. 

In his website about Cork city entitled Cork Heritage, Independent cork city councillor and historian Kieran McCarthy states that Odlums operated their flour mills venture at the docklands from 1965.

It followed a long history of milling in Cork. 

Workers at the National Flour Mills in Cork, 1958. 
Workers at the National Flour Mills in Cork, 1958. 

"Between 1875 and 1880 Cork became one of the first milling centres in Ireland to adopt the roller process, and a number of well-equipped mills in the city and county were constructed, in which some 70,000 tons of wheat was milled annually, and in addition, close on 90,000 tons of maize was ground. 

"A large and landmark mill and warehouse complex known as the Cork National Flour Mills on Cork’s South Docks was built in 1892," Mr McCarthy states. 

The Cork Milling Company was later formed and took over the Cork National Flour Mills site.

By the 1930s plans were afoot to restore the building, as Mr McCarthy notes. 

"The work of preparing the plans for a building capable of housing a modern flour-milling plant was entrusted to the noted Cork architects, Messrs Chillingworth and Levie, and in September 1933 work began on the erection and completed in July 1934. 

"The contractors for the building were Messrs John Sisk and Son. 

"According to the Cork Examiner, although there was an original building on the present site, the work entailed a large amount of engineering skill, and, thanks to the Consulting Engineer Mr J L O’Connell, the reusability of adapting the older premises as a mill, was accomplished."

Workers at the National Flour Mills in Cork, 1958. 
Workers at the National Flour Mills in Cork, 1958. 

The repurposing of the Odlums Building is just one aspect of a significant plan by O’Callaghan Properties to redevelop the South Docks area.

The plans are due to be submitted within weeks. 

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