The Crusher Houses of Baravore, Glenmalure.
Two crusher houses in the townland of Baravore at the head of Glenmalure valley in Co. Wicklow stand as testament to the industrial heritage of the valley in the nineteenth century.
The sight of these granite structures hidden deeply in the Coillte forest were a curiosity to many hill walkers and tourists. However in recent years, with the removal of the surrounding woodland, the development of the surrounding area as a mining heritage area by Coillte and the work of the local Glenmalure PURE Mile Group, the public are presently well informed of the mining heritage of Glenmalure and the importance of these precious granite structures as part of a nineteenth century industrial landscape.
A crusher house was an important building on a mine site as it housed the vital crushing infrastructure used to separate the waste stone from its valuable lead content, generally powered by a large waterwheel carried by a manmade leat from a nearby river or stream.
Old Crusher House 1851
The older crusher house is the smaller of the two and was built circa 1851 during the earlier phases of mining in Baravore. It housed a single Cornish rolls crusher. Its water wheel was powered by a water supply from the nearby River Avonbeg. Evidence of the site of the nearby dressing floor and the Mine Road leading to the building can still be identified. Unfortunately, the building has suffered some storm damage in recent years but still stands as fine granite structure on the slope of the hill above the public track. It is hoped that proposed conservation works will soon stabilise this building, protecting it for future generations.
The New Crusher House 1859-1860
This magnificent granite structure known as the new crusher house was built in 1859-1860.It was constructed by a new mining company to replace the original smaller crusher house nearby. It is recognised by mining experts as ‘undoubtedly the finest extant example in Ireland of a rolls crusher house’ (Dr. Sharron Schwartz, Dr. Martin Critchley, MHTI (2014)). It stands at 11.1m tall with walls of 3ft in thickness. It was powered by a huge water wheel on the eastern side of the building fed from a leat or man-made waterway from the nearby natural moraine pond and also from the nearby Fraughan Rock Brook. It was a two storey building with a rear opening through which the crusher was fed from the nearby dressing floor behind the building. The letter B carved into the granite above the rear opening was for the townland of Baravore and the mining company responsible for its construction was the Baravore Silver and Lead Mining Company. Unfortunately the Baravore mining enterprise was not as lucrative as the investors had hoped and mining had ceased at Baravore by 1861.
Since the forestry plantations in Baravore in the 1950s both the old and new crusher houses lay secretly hidden in the forest, spotted only by walkers who got a glimpse of the new crusher house while taking a short cut to the Fraughan Rock Glen on their way to Lugnaquilla and local farmers whose animals used it for shelter from harsh winds.
In recent years when both crusher houses were again revealed following deforestation, a new generation of walkers, locals and visitors to the valley noticed these fine granite buildings for the first time. Some were bewildered as to what their purpose may have been with many speculating that they may have been army forts or some kind of military buildings. Exposure to the harsh elements took its toll on both structures which began to deteriorate rapidly. Rainwater was driven into the stonework causing crumbling and saplings sprung from the masonry causing rock falls.
Consolidation Works under Structures at Risk Scheme 2016
In 2016, following an application by the local PURE Mile group, the new crusher house was one of six structures selected for the National Adopt a Monument Scheme in 2016 and was the only structure selected in the province of Leinster. This scheme is an initiative of the National Heritage Council to establish partnerships between local community groups, archaeologists, state organisations and other experts working in the heritage sector to research and inform the public of the significance of lesser known structures.
In 2016 the crusher house at Baravore was also the recipient of generous funding from its landowner Coillte and the National Heritage Council to conserve and protect the structure. Comprehensive specialist conservation work was carried out including removing vegetation, consolidating of masonry where significant deterioration had taken place, patch pointing the masonry with lime mortar and the flaunched capping of the skyward surfaces for protection against future weathering. A metal gate and window grills were also fitted to provide safety protection from invasive trespass.